Erika Shershun, MA, MFT
Why Therapy Helps
The act of revealing ourselves fully to another while still being accepted for who we are is one of the most significant aspects of therapeutic healing. It is a corrective emotional experience we can all benefit from at some time in our lives, especially those who have seldom felt seen, understood or accepted.
We need supportive relationships to nurture our growth throughout our lifes. Therapy is a form of social support. Research shows that social support helps build resilience against stress and decreases the likelihood of developing PTSD after a traumatic event.
Building resilience helps us to spend more time in a calm state. When we're able to spend more time inhabiting calm, access to the relational part of our brain is enhanced. This allows us deep contact with our own being, and strengthens authentic connection with others. It's a positive feedback loop creating less stress, anxiety, and highly reactive emotions, and more calm, connection, and feelings of expansion.
Therapy helps us expand our tolerance and make peace with our emotions. It helps us gain insight and awareness into our individual power, to the choices available to us at any given moment, and to the widespread effect our thoughts and actions can have on ourselves and on others.
The following quote from Psychotherapy: The School of Life, Isaac Holland (video attached below) sums up one of the overarching goals of therapy:
"So many of our problems come down to not having enough insight into how our minds work, what we want, what we fear, why we act the way we do, and are overwhelmed by certain feelings. The goal of therapy is self-knowledge. By talking a lot to someone who listens very carefully over many weeks you come to deeper insights into the mind you inhabit, patterns start to emerge, a particular way of approaching relationships, or dealing with defeat, a recurrent, not very helpful approach to jealousy, an ongoing thing with your sister of father, this is the stuff of therapy. Knowing how to live isn't an instinct, we're not born with it, it's a skill and one of the places you learn it is in the outwardly slightly unusual, but in fact deeply normal and productive setting of a therapist's office."
Therapists are generally welcoming and receptive, offering empathy and encouragement, what matters most is how this is received and experienced. Selecting a therapist you're comfortable with is very important, it's okay to interview as many as needed until you find one you feel a sense of trust and resonance with.
Therapy is often a series of small breakthroughs. You may have aha moments in session, yet just as with learning to play an instrument or becoming proficient in another language, it takes time and repetition to integrate new thoughts and behaviors.
Sometimes people are not yet ready for therapy, if that's the case it's better not to force it. We need to respect the innate wisdom that resides within each of us; sometimes it really is too soon. They may not yet have the internal and/or external resources necessary for focused self-exploration, healing, and change.
For those who are ready and courageous enough to seek out therapy, it may be comforting to know that when we create change within ourselves there is a ripple effect that touches each of our relationships. As a therapist and fellow traveler it is an honor and privilege to witness my client’s dedication to self-exploration, self-awareness, and self-agency as they positively impact not only their own, but the lives of those they hold near and dear.
To read 11 Myths About Therapy check out https://psychcentral.com/lib/therapists-spill-11-myths-about-therapy/
How to Choose a Therapist
Research shows that social support helps build resilience https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2921311/)