In general people see a therapist when there is a problem. This is true. Most people need some sort of problem that’s uncomfortable enough that they will take the step to begin therapy. It’s of course not comfortable opening up with a stranger and telling them all your deep darkest secrets. It takes a lot of courage and internal motivation to take that step.
Most people also think when they are starting to feel better that therapy has worked and they can now stop coming. For some people this can be true. But with most of our trauma folks, “better” simply signifies not being in constant crisis mode. Yeah, that is an awesome feeling. But because you were in constant crisis mode your therapist likely was helping you develop coping skills and maybe change your behavior a bit so you could stop the cycle.
The truth is that deep work cannot be done when you are not stable. I cannot start EMDR with a client that is chronically suicidal, self-harming and self-sabotaging. I cannot do deep work with client’s coming in with a new fire to put out every week. I can help them learn to manage the moment and self-regulate better. I can help them set boundaries so they are less overwhelmed. I can help them build up their social support so they feel less alone. All of that is still gold. It’s great life changing stuff that ends the roller coaster.
But the deeper stuff that triggers them jumping back on that roller coaster. The inner voice that feels “not good enough”, “alone”, “unlovable”, “responsible”, “guilty” etc. will end up creeping in again and those great behavior changes will likely fade away again and you’re back in crisis mode.
So that deep stuff. That inner child that still gets “pinged” when you get a critic at work, or your husband says “did you change the diaper genie?”, or your friend cancels plans. That work is best done when you are stable. It’s hard work. But changing that inner voice and those automated thoughts and responses is what truly puts you in the driver’s seat of your life. It is also what ends the intergenerational trauma from continuing forward with your children.
That inner voice comes out so often and so unconsciously that it perpetuates us in the cycle. The woman that struggles with self-esteem, ends up criticizing her daughter’s weight and making food comments- that cause her daughter to feel the same as her “unlovable” or that love is conditional or that my value is based on my appearance. It’s surely unintentional and likely not in any way what that mom wants for her kid. But when we don’t have full operational control of our inner voice we end up sending mixed messages to our children, our loved ones and our colleagues.
When it is smooth sailing it’s the perfect time to dive deep. There are less stressors from school, work, life problems which is why you now feel “there’s no stress. I don’t need therapy”. The lack of stress allows for you to now really dive into some deeper issues that are going to bring up some uncomfortable thoughts, memories and emotions. It is the best time to do that work because now that your daily stressors are gone you have the emotional bandwidth to add the work- and healing yourself is work.
So now you’re probably like, “Okay, Jamie. If even when I am not stressed I need therapy, when do I not need therapy?” Valid question.
My answer is when you can easily silence that inner voice that pops up. Whether that be the voice that makes you feel responsible for others, not good enough, unlovable, damaged, guilty, or that you cannot trust your judgment. When you can easily stop playing whack-a-mole and that voice doesn’t pester you- end therapy. When you have worked through and healed that inner child- end therapy. When life is stressful and you don’t want to rip out your hair, or feel your skin is crawling- end therapy. Don’t end when there is no stress. End when you can manage your stress without being in crisis mode.
But if you are a constant crisis mode client that is finally off the rollercoaster. Please talk to your therapist about doing some deeper work. About exploring those core beliefs and truly processing the memories associated with them. We want you to feel better. Truly better and in control of your life.
If you are looking for a therapist our counselors at Suffolk Family Therapy would love to help you. What sets us apart from most therapists is that we are authentic humans. Imperfectly perfect I like to say. We are real, down to earth people. We love what we do and who we work with. We do evidenced-based work and are not afraid to challenge you when needed. Because we are down-to-earth genuine humans we truly care about our clients. Even though we will push you, we are probably some of the most compassionate, empathetic, and empowering people you will meet. Give our office a call today to be matched with a therapist who truly understands your concerns. And sleep a little better tonight knowing you took that first step.