Going to a therapist is becoming more mainstream which I’m personally very happy about BUT there is still a feeling among some circles that it’s a bit self -indulgent or only for people who have suffered deep trauma or maybe have acute anxiety or serious addictions.Sometimes the results aren’t so quantitive as say, ‘quitting drug use’ or ‘feeling less anxious and being able to function again’ so in quite a lot of cases how do we know therapy is working?
Having seen a fair few clients over the past few years and had a good amount of therapy myself I’d like to share some of the unexpected side effects of having therapy that I’ve seen in both myself and in them (in case anyone was on the fence about trying it!).
I see therapy as a tool to personal evolution and who doesn’t want that? This evolution looks slightly different for everyone. The below list is by no means finite or exhaustive and if you are having therapy at the moment might be used as a checklist of sorts as signs you are evolving and that the therapy is working:
- Greater self -awareness – probably the first and most profound shift that occurs within the first few sessions. Starting to see patterns and your part in them- not just blaming others for current circumstances. Expect light bulb moments a-plenty!
- Self -care increases – a common effect of therapy is having a greater regard for yourself and this in turn means you start looking after yourself more. Maybe you start to exercise more, or get more sleep, or get a better support network in place. For me it was stopping binge drinking and having a healthier relationship with food – less emotional eating and more putting good stuff into my body. You may find you watch less trashy TV because you are out there living. Old unhealthy habits disappear as your love for yourself grows.
- Things don’t bother you so much – you become more resilient. Past triggers and other people’s behaviour cease to have such a hold over you as you learn more acceptance and that you can’t control others. It’s likely you learn better ways of responding and handling life and tricky situations. These situations sometimes go away and sometimes don’t but you find you can handle them better. This might manifest in a new tolerance for previously intolerable family members. Relationships may heal and they may not but you will heal and this will transform the dynamic.
- Old people fall away and you attract new people and situations into your life. Part of the evolution process is upgrading what you tolerate and attract and when you feel better about yourself people who used to use and abuse you or take advantage start to disappear out of your life. Have you heard the saying ‘Your vibe attracts your tribe’? Yeah, that. If you’re in a toxic relationship chances are that will fall away too – be prepared!
- You stop comparing so much. Because you are so much more content with yourself and your life you start becoming happy for other’s good fortune minus the envy. This is so freeing!
- Your world becomes bigger yet simpler. A simpler way of being emerges – i.e less drama! As you change and grow your tolerance for the chaotic and inauthentic decreases and you start to value what’s really important. At the same time you will probably find your world opens up as you grow in confidence – maybe you finally have the courage to travel to far off countries or join that club or take up a new sport. You show up fully in the world meaning you bring your whole self into situations and people respond to this. You are no longer afraid to be you!
- You start to look at your dreams. Once you get through some of the pain you no longer carry this – oh the lightness you feel! This frees up the space to start looking at your bigger goals. The first part of therapy is often very inward looking – it has to be. Once this is dealt with you find yourself becoming more outward focused and moving from merely surviving to thriving. It’s not unusual for people to have career changes after seeing a therapist for a while. One of my lovely clients gave up her job at a law firm to launch her own dog walking business.
Sometimes the shifts you make during therapy are big and quick and sometimes they are more gradual and it’s only when you reflect back that you realise how much has changed without you realising it. It does require work on your part, quite a lot of work but it is SO worth it. Personally, therapy has given me the space to understand myself and let go of the old to make room for the new. I’ve learnt to have better boundaries, I have more self -acceptance and confidence, I no longer hate my body (this has been HUGE for me) and therapy has honestly helped me become a better sister, daughter and friend. Think of who you would be without all that baggage weighing you down? If you don’t believe me you know what to do – try it!