Do You Need a Vitamin or Do You Need Surgery?
I think everyone can benefit from some form of counselling or coaching. It provides an opportunity to take a step back from your thoughts and feelings and to reflect and problem-solve with a non-judgmental third party who should not have their own agenda for your life.
While there are many different types of counselling and coaching, I see two main kinds of therapeutic support:
1. There is the need for deep mental health care, trauma processing, support around painful issues. This type is more like the mental health equivalent of surgery. It’s important to have a trauma-informed counsellor who you feel good with for this type of intervention. This kind of therapy does not always feel good, in fact we often feel at least slightly worse before we get better. Cleaning out and disinfecting our mental wounds stings the way it would if it were a physical wound. In the long run, said wounds heal better than if left alone to fester or get infected. Kind of a gross analogy, I’m sorry. Feelings can be messy. Human beings can be messy, too. As with physical surgery, our health usually improves after we receive appropriate treatment.
2. The second kind of therapeutic support is a “vitamin” kind of counselling. People who come in for “vitamin” counselling are already doing decently, but want to go from “meh” or “okay” to happier or thriving. They want to optimize their lives and access more of their potential. For example, a person who has a pretty good work and home life, but wants to leave their workplace for a while to explore new growth opportunities. The problem is that their workplace is just sort of dull – it’s not quite awful enough to push them to make the leap to quit. Job hunting and changing course is challenging when things are “okay-enough”. Vitamin counselling or coaching can support people using motivational interviewing techniques to help them see the costs and benefits of staying or going, and to support them with accountability for their choices and following through. Sometimes we all need a little push, eh? Even to get going in the direction we deeply want to go.
As a therapist, I like to use both “vitamin” and “surgery” support styles. Sometimes people come in for vitamin support and click with me as a counsellor and are willing to go deeper. We may explore some of the roots of their patterns so they can better understand themselves and make life changes that are more sustainable. Alternatively, people may simply want strategies for managing their ADHD symptoms, for navigating the dating world, for reconnecting with their partners, or for dealing with conflict. Brief interventions can make a powerful impact in people’s lives, and the lives of people close with them.
Important to note: Not every therapist is a good fit for every person. Nor is every therapy style a good fit for everyone. Shop for a therapist until you feel good in your gut about the person you are connecting with, and about the type of support they can provide for you.
I had a negative experience with a therapist who tried to tell me to leave my partner at the time which I was not ready to do. That experience would have turned me off therapy completely if not for my insatiable desire to better understand my own psyche and human beings in general. A bad therapist, even only an okay one, may do more harm than good. It’s discouraging to feel a lack of progress or steps back, or even just a whiff of judgement from your therapist. So much of the outcome of therapy relies on your relationship with your therapist, so feeling they are trustworthy is key. Another important factor that you bring to the table in therapy is hope – hope for a better future through your work together, and trust in the therapeutic process.
I am so grateful to be working in this field, with people who show up willing to be vulnerable and put in the effort to make their situations better. Particularly, I enjoy helping people to improve their relationship with themselves. We all have one of those - how is yours? Surgery and vitamin styles of counselling can both help people with their self-confidence. People learn to trust themselves (to follow through on what they tell themselves that they will do, for instance) which lays the foundation to relate better to others and for people to ultimately get the love they want.
No matter the type of therapeutic support you select, good sessions may help you to recognize that you have more choice and power in your life than what you previously thought. Removing your own barriers and self-sabotaging behaviours will clear the path to getting what you want and need out of life.
Take gentle care.