How bad does it have to get?
Consider this – if your wounds are like a litre of water, and your capacity to manage them is like a bowl, inevitably there is going to be some stirring of that water in the therapy process. Would you prefer to have the capacity of a half-litre cup or the capacity of a two-litre bucket?
Sometimes, as opposite as it sounds, the best time to go to therapy is when you’re feeling ok.
Perhaps you’ve been in crisis and know that therapy is an option for you. You begin to explore who you want to work with and almost take the step to connect with a therapist. Perhaps you do connect and consider making that first appointment. But something happens in your life, and suddenly things don’t feel as bad again. You convince yourself you don’t really need therapy, things aren’t actually that bad, and anyway, therapy is expensive and time-consuming.
So you carry on as usual and put the idea to the back of your mind. There’s always the nagging feeling that life could be better, and that perhaps one day you may take the time to invest in yourself and the healing journey, but you haven’t reached your threshold.
I ask you – how bad does it have to get?
Have you considered that, when going to therapy in crisis, although of course therapy can help you manage this crisis and provide space for you to understand what’s going on, the therapy time and energy will be focussed on managing the crisis? Your capacity to make the most of the investment will be limited. Essentially, you will be firefighting.
When you are in crisis, often, your childhood wounds are being acted out. When you come to therapy hoping to manage the crisis, the focus is on the here and now, and often you have big decisions you need to make to get you out of crisis. Perhaps your relationship with your partner or family is causing a lot of distress, or you are acting out harmful behaviours. The first step in therapy in this instance will be to create enough safety in your life, enough stability that you can reflect on what is happening, and possibly why, in order to make small changes.
If, however, you come to therapy when you find yourself in a place of stability within a few areas of your life – perhaps you have a relatively stable job, you have a safe enough place to live and possibly some available resources for self-care, from this place – you have a much larger capacity for growth, healing, and reflection. The time, energy, and money spent on therapy can help you to work towards healing. Your emotional wounds will have more space and safety to emerge, and perhaps you will have enough energy to dive into the therapeutic journey that would just not be possible when you’re in crisis.
When you come to therapy with this stability, the ability to reflect is greater, your capacity to explore possible patterns of your life may be greater, and your ability to take care of yourself through the difficult process will support your healing at a deeper level. Decisions can be made with more confidence, and changing your behaviour and responding to your emotions may feel more manageable. There may be greater space for longer, deeper healing.
Going back to the image of the water, if you have a two-litre bucket to hold your one-litre of water, when we slosh the bucket around, which is inevitable, you are less likely to spill over everything.
Therapy when in crisis can be a lifeline.
It can be the difference between keeping your head above water or feeling like you are drowning. But perhaps when life is ok, therapy has huge potential and possibility for healing.
It can be the difference between keeping your head above water and building a solid, stable ground that pushes your head way above that waterline, allowing you not only to survive, but thrive in your life.
Overwhelm does not have to be the threshold.
Therapy no longer has to be an end of the road option.
This blog was originally created for the counselling directory and can be found on their website here.