Do people really change?
Therapy can feel intimidating, mysterious, weird, unsettling, and amorphic when first begun. It can also feel scary and exciting. I offer individual therapy and counseling in Portland, Oregon to people working through a variety of problems. Whether you are married to an addict, struggling with your own behavior, or deeply depressed or experiencing panic and anxiety, I can help you by providing individual therapy. Typically, clients come to see me once a week. This can be a big commitment for some people and it’s okay to come to sessions twice a month, if that’s what is affordable. In the beginning, there is a getting-to-know you process and yet there is also a sense of urgency. Clients are stuck on an issue or two and I am there to provide feedback, guidance and to basically get clients through it to the other side in a way that feels functional. Learning healthy coping skills is important.
I can’t change the past. What good will talking about it do?
What am I supposed to do with what we talk about? Will I feel better right away or soon? What is our plan? How does this work? How will this actually help me? This is a lot of money, why should I do this and why now?
Therapy is a big investment in yourself. It is an investment of money, time, emotion and energy. If you are interested in investing in yourself and changing your life, it is the right move. We now know – through extensive research including MRI brain scans in the field of interpersonal neurobiology – that the brain can literally change. There is certainly more to explore and understand, but it is now confirmed that the brain’s plasticity is much greater than ever believed in the past. This is good news! No, great news. It means that new neuropathways (or grooves in the brain, literally) can be formed and people can change — thus make big changes in their lives. But how?
The first step is attunement. When the right side of my brain attunes with the right side your brain, you will feel understood, accepted and we will both feel a connection. This is a crucial step so that you can trust me as a counselor and have faith that this process will work. We will be going to some scary and hard emotional places together; trust is not negotiable. It must be earned and real.
Everyone needs support.
The next step is talking and receiving support. For some people, this is such a foreign experience it might feel uncomfortable and even fake. How can someone who doesn’t even know me, who is I pay money to, actually support me and be genuine? Especially if you come from a family that did not give this type of unconditional regard, right? To be that vulnerable and cared about is a foreign feeling and it is your coping skill to not trust it. I respect that caution and the therapy process. It may take some time for you to trust me, like any relationship the longer we know each other the more we feel disappointment, anger, rage, sadness and we also develop intimacy. I am here for your feelings to play out upon and work with. We talk about them together and I support you. The third step is to gain insights.
What do I do with all this support? I know I feel better when I leave my therapist’s office (although sometimes I feel worse or sad or mixed up and confused) but what now? It is a good sign if you feel a little twinge of discomfort during our sessions. We are not friends, we are not girlfriends chatting or a brother and sister goofing around, I am not your parent. However, I do take my job seriously and I see myself as a firm and loving presence who can both support you, give you reality checks and remind you of what’s most important to you and accept who you are, exactly as you are today. The paradox is that receiving that acceptance and helping you to give it yourself allows you to change.
This is not an overnight process. But I have worked with people who make changes soon after starting therapy. Think about it: it takes great heaps of courage to even call a therapist. You might sit with my business card on your desk for six or nine months or a year or two. You might peruse a bunch of local therapist websites and bookmark them. But once you make the call, send the email, reach out, whatever – you are ready. I meet with many people who often come to me and they are ripe, ready to change.
Do People Really Change?
The good news is yes. The bad news is that – like all important things – it takes some work. In the Stages of Change model relapse is an expected part of the process though for some people it is more of a lapse than a full on relapse. Either way, after that stage people typically pick themselves up, brush themselves off and go back to the maintenance stage. There is hope. These are the Stages of Change…
· Precontemplation: Hey, what’s the problem? Something doesn’t feel quite right, but it’s not me. My partner thinks I have a problem.
· Contemplation: I know I have a problem, I get it. But I am not so sure I want to change right now.
· Preparation/Determination: I am getting my ducks in a row. I am making my plans for this big change. I am preparing.
· Action/Willpower: I did it! I feel a difference, this change is important. My life suits me now. It feels great. It feels terrifying. It is all so new.
· Maintenance: I take actions so I can keep up this new behavior and not slip into old patterns. I am proud of myself. Other people notice!
· Relapse: I am so mad at myself and ashamed. I knew this would happen. I am in the same old loop. When will I really change?
I encourage you to call me if you are struggling, feeling down, hopeless, or just not satisfied on an area of your life. If you are addicted to pornography or if you have another sexual addiction or if you are a partner of an addict, it is time to reach out and get support. Making a change in your life is possible and healing lies ahead. I will help provide you with support so that you can have insights and create the changes you want to make. I will provide a safe space for you to express your fears, worries, doubts, anxieties and hopes about the future. How did you get to this point? What are your relationships like? What did your family of origin teach you? What habits have gotten you through tough times in the past? Are they no longer working?
How do you see yourself in six months? A year from now? Ten years? How can you mindfully create a life you want to live, a life worth living? Too many people go through the day-to-day family life or slog without stopping to ask important questions and consider their own values and goals. Taking the time to go through the individual therapy process is a sign of self-respect. It is an investment in yourself.