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My Take

Creating a Safe Space for Therapy

Hi guys! I’m so happy it’s almost the weekend! Speaking for myself I can really use it and I’m sure I’m not alone. Students right now are facing the end of semester crunch with projects, presentations and finals galore! But…it IS the home stretch!

One of the things that drained me this week was my therapy session. This inspired me for a new article which could be called ‘the post-therapy blues’. It’s not fun but the name is quite fitting. Therapy brings up painful things that are important to work through but the downside is an unpleasant aftermath; the rawness, confusion, sadness, anger…you name it! I believe that these are actually a good sign in the sense that they indicate work being done. If things don’t get stirred up perhaps the session hasn’t been as productive as it could’ve been. I could be completely wrong of course but this has been my experience.

I was feeling fine in the session until my therapist asked one seemingly innocuous question that triggered me. It was pretty surprising and hit really close to home. I wasn’t ready to discuss it further and after that point I felt pretty bad; this lingered the rest of the day and I needed time in bed to hold myself together and recuperate. My goal is to discuss ways to have a productive session without letting it ruin the remainder of our day. It’s tricky!

Prior to the Therapy Session:

  • Acknowledge that you will shortly be facing your fears and troubles. (Psych up, I suppose – no pun intended!)
  • See it as time dedicated to your personal well-being, despite the discomfort it often brings.
  • Accept that it won’t be the best hour of your day, but try to remember that it’s well worth the time in the long run.
  • Prepare for the session; this could mean notes to help you remember what you most need to discuss, artwork that explains how you feel, journal entries that capture important issues…anything that helps YOU.

During the Therapy Session:

  • Try to remain honest and communicate how you feel to the best of your ability.
  • When your therapist challenges you on something try to remember that this is to help and not to harm. If it really affects you this may indicate that it’s something that requires attention.
  • If your level of discomfort is too high, maintain your boundaries and express that you may not be ready. Your therapist will most likely understand this and support your decision. In fact knowing your limits is something to be proud of!
  • Becoming emotional is not something to feel shy, guilty or ashamed of; it’s perfectly natural and you won’t be judged. (If you are, perhaps it’s time to find a better fit!)
  • If you perceive something your therapist says as unkind, rude, harsh, etc., try not to keep it inside and bottle up resentment. Share your opinion to grow and improve your relationship. This only helps!

After the Therapy Session:

  • Congratulate yourself for the bravery it took to share what is deeply personal to you.
  • If you feel like there are important things to remember and/or would like to think about later, perhaps you could take some notes.
  • As mentioned above, when thoughts occur to you and you wish to come back to something in a later session, make note of it.
  • Find a way to separate your therapy session from the rest of the day. My therapist had an idea for this and I really like it: Imagine therapy like a drawer. During the session you unlock it and examine the content in safety. When the session is up, close the drawer and lock it away for later.
  • Try to do something you enjoy after the therapy session. It doesn’t help to have to jump into work or some other unpleasant task immediately after making yourself raw and vulnerable.

These are the helpful hints I’m trying to use and I plan to add more as I think of new strategies. Have a lovely weekend everyone!

What's YOUR take?