Life Lessons from Therapy

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I remember the first time I went to therapy. I was a sophomore in college, struggling with imposter syndrome, and feeling a lack of connection with family that I’d left back home. I was confused, frustrated, and anxious. And although I didn’t know what therapy was, I knew that it was something I got for “free” as a student, and I was trying to take advantage of every resource that the university offered. So I called the counseling center, booked the appointment, and went in. Since that first therapy appointment until now, when I have the occasion to go, I learn so much, connecting with a licensed clinical psychologist. Below are a few of the most significant lessons I’ve learned from therapy and why I think that you should go too.

YOU HAVE TO TELL THE TRUTH.

One of my life mantras is to tell the truth and to practice from a space of honesty and vulnerability. I first learned the purpose of this in therapy. In order for my therapist to help me and for the effort to pay off, I had to tell myself and my therapist the truth. Blocking things out, dismissing things, saying you're “fine” when you’re not—these lies keep you from living in your truth. Lies do not create a space where your therapist can help you. Therapy is wasted when you lie, limit information, or hold back due to fear, shame or mistrust. Tell yourself the truth and if you’re having trouble finding it, tell your therapist that too.

YOU HAVE TO DO THE WORK.

Every time I go to therapy, my therapist gives me homework. Sometimes, the assignment is to have the tough conversation that I’ve been avoiding for weeks. Sometimes it’s getting some sleep; sometimes it’s journaling, and occasionally, its doing deep breathing exercises. Whatever the homework is, you have to do the work, or at least, make an honest attempt at it. The funny thing about therapy is that you really only see improvements if you work at it. You can enjoy the conversations and go there and vent, but if you really want to get better and if you want to start healing, you have to do the work.

GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY.

So often I try to fix myself and my issues. I think I know better or I think the situation is not as bad as it seems. I think that if I just go to the gym, pray about it, talk to a friend, or have a good cry, I’ll be better. It’s only when I get out of my own way and go to therapy that I truly can see my issues for what they are and start to heal. Sometimes you are the toxic person in your life and it’s only through therapy that you face that and address it. Get out of your own way. There is healing on the other side.

If you’ve been to therapy, what lessons have you learned?

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