“Why do you need therapy?”
As a student Music Therapist, I was required to attend a minimum of 50 hours of psychotherapy. From my perspective I was in therapy, so I could be a better therapist. When I mentioned that I had been at therapy to others I would often say ‘I’ve been at therapy… that I go to as part of my course’.
But why did I feel the need to add this disclaimer? Why could I not be in therapy for me?
There is still a stigma in the UK about being in therapy, and a perception that there needs to be something ‘wrong’ with you to be in therapy. I think even as a trainee therapist, I felt this stigma. But the reality is, we all have bits of ourselves that are not functioning the way we want them too; we all worry and carry around guilt and shame. And it is absolutely fine and good to want to explore these in therapy.
Now I’m starting a new therapy process, this time on my own terms. Since I qualified I’ve always had in the back of my mind that I would start therapy again but I would say it is not until now that I have acknowledged that I really need this. Our work as therapists can be emotionally challenging, and it is part of being a responsible therapist to give yourself this time to reflect so we can better understand and empathise with our clients. But I also need it for me. I am not invincible and life is hard! I need a place to explore who I am, how I feel and how I fit in this world.
What’s it like going to therapy?
Before my Music Therapy training, I had never had therapy before, but remember feeling a mixture of being excited about they would get out of me, and also really nervous about what it would be like. When I imagine that therapist’s waiting room (filled with painted clay pots and books about jazz) I can sense that feeling of anticipation. In many ways that first session was the hardest step (even though I was required to do it).
It took me a few weeks to build up the trust and connection with my therapist. Like any relationship, it took me some time to build. And being listened to intensely, for a whole 50 minutes took me some getting used to. But once I had established that trust it was good- I knew I could say what I wanted to say and it would be ok and I could talk about stuff that I don’t feel comfortable talking about elsewhere!
It was sometimes hard, and sometimes intense. Occasionally I felt worse at the end of the session, than at the start. I was learning about myself, and sometimes faced with things I wanted to ignore. I judged myself a lot. Sometimes I felt like I was whining, or it felt somehow selfish to talk about myself for so long. There was also something odd about doing it while I was training, as there were comparisons and maybe even competitiveness with other student’s experiences… I remember a course-mate saying they had spent most of their first session crying. For me, it wasn’t so easy to be vulnerable with a stranger and I felt strangely jealous about this. But the therapist did not judge me, she listened and helped me notice patterns, and let me do everything in my own time. Over time, this helped me to become more aware about myself and grow as a person.
I’m optimistic about starting therapy again and feeling good about making this time for myself. Let’s see how it goes…
Related Book Recommendation: As therapists we spend a lot of time thinking about other people’s difficulties. It’s essential that we also acknowledge our own. ‘The Myth of the Untroubled Therapist’ by Marie Adams recognises this entirely and explores how therapist’s relate to their own difficulties, and how this might have an effect on therapy practice.