Before a person calls a psychologist, thoughts such as:
• Is psychotherapy for me?
• What topics will we discuss in general?
• Will I be uncomfortable opening up to a stranger?
• How much can a person change in certain / advanced years?
• Is it normal that I am afraid that I will go in a direction I do not want?
• If I change, will people close to me still love me?
• How much effort and time will I have to invest in personal change?
Such questions, which can mostly be defined as fear of the unknown, which, although sometimes lead to giving up psychotherapy, are completely normal and frequent. No one comes to psychotherapy in a state of complete well being. A certain dose of discomfort is normal, and even desirable, because without going through the discomfort, we cannot achieve higher levels of pleasure and satisfaction. Simply put, in order to make the desired changes in our lives, we need to step out of our comfort zone: face our own fears, internal and external conflicts, the parts of ourselves we want to work on to improve the quality of our own lives.
Every client who comes to psychotherapy is a whole unique world. When a psychologist meets a client for the first time, he should approach him as one completely unique and unrepeatable world, as well as be interested in which positive and negative parts and in what way they contributed to the creation of that unique whole. This is how the client’s problem is approached.
For example, anxiety and panic manifest in different ways:
• in a young person faced with a decision on choosing a future profession and choosing a city or country to move to;
• in a person caring for the future after losing a loved one;
• in a person who is in the process of divorce;
• in a person diagnosed with the disease;
• in a physically and emotionally exhausted person who does not even know why he has symptoms of panic attacks;
• with a tired mother, who does not have many opportunities to go out and make social contacts.
The desire for change is of different intensities in:
• a person who delays solving his problems for years and one who has recently realized a certain problem;
• a person who is eager to take his life into his own hands and a person who has no intention of reporting to a psychotherapist;
• a person who reluctantly responds to psychotherapy, more at the urging of close people and a person who decides to take this step;
• a person who has to work on several problems (change of profession, divorce, weight loss) and a person who works on one specific problem.
Although during psychotherapy, we work with each client in a completely unique way, on completely unique topics, we can group certain topics that often run through psychotherapeutic work, as well as the effects of that work:
1. Analyzing family patterns and ego states (parent-child), recognizing that an adult maintains various dysfunctional and childish patterns of thinking, feelings and behavior. These people work on accepting their own age, accepting inconveniences and responsibilities, and the main goal is to make the client accept growing up.
2. Some people, due to their strict upbringing, have adopted certain patterns of opinion that keep them in a state in which they often feel insecure, confused and unstable, especially when making life decisions. With these clients, one of the goals of psychotherapy is to build independence in thinking.
3. Sometimes clients appear full of fears and worries about a potential change in their own lives. They stay in the comfort zone and it is difficult for them to take the initiative, which is why they spin in a vicious circle until they learn to move from words to acting. They usually need permission to be a little braver, more daring, more determined.
4. Certain people, while growing up and going through life’s challenges, came to the conclusion that feelings can be dangerous, that only the weak people feel emotions and that people who do not show their emotions passe through life easier. During psychotherapy, these people learn to fully accept all feelings, as well as to experience them with enjoyment and without fear.
5. There is often a widespread belief that we must not enjoy, because in that way we will attract some evil force into our own lives. Related to that is not showing our happiness to other people, for fear that we will lose them because of it. Allowing us to be happy and show it openly and without fear is one of the positive effects of working on ourselves.
6. Related to the previous assumption is the belief that only people who are in some sense average can be happy, loved and accepted. Because of that, many people suppress their own potentials to really live life to the fullest. Allowing ourselves success is important in order to progress towards greater life satisfaction and increased self-confidence.
7. Clients often turn to psychotherapy because they do not feel comfortable in their own skin, or have problems in relationships with close people, or have a series of mistakes and failures. Basically, there is often a strong feeling that they are not worth it and that in some way they do not deserve a better life. Allowing yourself and others a sense of personal worth is one of the most common positive effects of psychotherapy.
8. After divorce, abandonment by a close person, loss, many people decide to protect themselves from suffering by shutting themselves in and building a cold wall around themselves. Belonging, believing and loving again is a way for these clients to get out of their own difficult situation.
9. While on the one hand, as mentioned above, there are people who spend part or all of their lives childishly, choosing irresponsible choices or avoiding any kind of inconvenience and independence, it is also an unhealthy pattern of overly serious and rigid behavior, too strict behaviors towards oneself and others. Psychological permission to engage in life through play, fun, and creativity can lead to amazing results, change, and life decisions.
10. Although people often turn to psychotherapy with clearly defined problems and goals, sometimes the biggest problem is that the client does not know what he wants, and therefore cannot get it. Wanting, imagining, visualizing, getting and receiving are the effects of working on yourself with clients like this.
11. Overweight, addiction to alcohol, cigarettes, food, unhealthy lifestyle, lack of physical activity, unhealthy diet, lack of sleep, overtime, striving for perfection… There are many ways we can consciously or unconsciously sabotage and damage our own mental and physical health. Learning how to take care of and improve yourself and your health is often a positive effect of psychotherapy.
12. There are people who simply lack spontaneity, self-confidence, courage. With such individuals, adopted prohibitions and requirements are revealed, and work is being done to change prohibitions into life permits, where the basic effect we see soon is freer and more authentic behavior.
13. Any individuals are trained during childhood to worry, worry, worry and try to control the future. Needless to say, these individuals often find themselves trapped in the shackles of panic, anxiety and various specific fears in critical periods of life. Analyzing patterns that lead to chronic anxiety, releasing the past, and trying to control the future gradually leads the client to learn to relax and live in the here and now.
So, although unpleasant:
• accept the fact that we may need psychotherapy,
• go through the inconvenience of getting out of the comfort zone
• go through the process of change and the path from problem to solution,
• increase comfort
• a better version of ourselves
• accepting that it is worth going through a certain dose of discomfort because it will lead us to a more beautiful and fulfilled, healthier and more conscious life.
Milana Zoric, PhD in Psychology