Therapy FAQ #1: "Where Should I Start?"
This question comes up a lot, both in consultation with inquiring clients and while meeting with those I know well. As it so happens, I've been wondering the same thing all morning, as I prepare to reveal an internal process to the external world through the delicate, limited language of words.
Sure, the question is often rhetorical. Still, asking where to start points us to the reality that opening up is not necessarily an easy thing to do (even when you're a professional), and it's especially challenging the first time. Or, the first time in a long time (just sayin').
So, I'm with you. We're in this together (phew!). Plus, technically we've already begun. If you're asking the question, or stating your hesitation, you've started. That part is over and done.
Before continuing, let's address the "should" in the room. And then politely ask it to leave. If we can't express what comes up, in whatever way it wants to be said in therapy, then we're not having the therapeutic experience we bargained for. IMHO.
Therapy is a place where all of you–and I mean all inner and outward representations of humanity–should be welcome. And this time I'm keeping the should. Because sometimes "should" just means, "can reasonably expect to;" and in therapy, this is one of them:
You can reasonably expect to:
- be welcomed.
- feel safe–from judgment, blame, and physical, emotional and/or spiritual harm.
- experience relief, reprieve and positive shifts, during sessions and in your life.
All of this creates what jargon would call, "the container." The therapy container is like any other container. It's what holds your "stuff" together, keeping it secure and protected.
When you come to this work, you can bring whatever you want to put in the container. There's no need to organize or do anything special with it, although you're welcome to. Your stuff doesn't need to be in any particular order for effective therapy to occur, as long as the container is intact. Which is predominantly your therapist's responsibility, by the way, and why we have shoulds and clients don't–except when therapists are clients, but that's another story.
Suffice it to say, there's no need to start therapy in any kind of way, or to talk about anything in particular–not your feelings, your family, nor your wildest hopes and dreams. Although to be perfectly honest, you probably will; and in good time I hope you do. These things have a way of coming up and out, when the circumstances are right. And when that happens, I bet you'll know just where to start.