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Trouble With “Real Life” Discoveries in Therapy

by Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I started going to therapy in December, after 3 other failed attempts. I’ve been consistent in going, and have really developed a rapport with my therapist. In my past, I have not been forthcoming with my feelings. I tend to hide, makeup stories of trauma to help cope with things that have happened. I was violently raped in college, and never told anyone about it.

Anyway, in therapy, we’re dealing with my relationship with my mother, one that is complex, because she continually calls me “a mess” and doesn’t have much faith in me … to the point where, upon learning that I was moving in with my boyfriend, her question was “Is he sure?”

I have therapy sessions every Monday, and I’m finding that rather than wanting to talk about it, or even act on the things that me and my Dr. discuss, I shut down. I’m even having trouble talking to my boyfriend about anything, for fear of breaking down. I feel depressed and a little hopeless.

I’m sorry this question is all over the place, but any help you can give me would be appreciated.

I want to first say congratulations on making progress in therapy. You have had several unsuccessful attempts and now it seems that you are making great strides. Don’t overlook or underappreciate your progress. It’s a sign that you are on the road to success.

The fact that you want to “shut down” indicates that you are probably where you need to be. It would be easier not to discuss difficult issues but ignoring them can slow your progress. Your therapist is likely pushing you into uncomfortable areas because he or she knows that is necessary for your personal growth.

Think of therapy as personal training for the mind. In many respects, the adage, “no pain no gain” is very fitting. Pain is often a sign of progress.

Therapy is often uncomfortable. It is the main reason why many people avoid it. Therapy forces individuals to analyze aspects of their life and make changes. Many people would rather not do the difficult work necessary to improve their lives. Status quo is easy; change requires work and it is difficult. M. Scott Peck discusses this extensively in his famous bestseller The Road Less Traveled. In his opinion, individuals who attend therapy are in essence saying “my life as it stands is no longer working and it needs to change.” Individuals who attend therapy are ready to give up their old life and begin a new one. He believes that the decision to undergo therapy takes great courage. I wholeheartedly agree.

I would encourage you to discuss your feelings with your therapist. Understand that behavioral changes and new ways of thinking will be uncomfortable but if you stick with therapy you will likely continue to make great progress. I wish you continued success. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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