This piece is written by a ‘fictional’ client who is a composite of three real-life clients who have shared their experience of psychotherapy with me. Some details have been changed to ensure confidentiality, however, the thoughts feeling and experiences expressed are those of three very real clients:
When I came to psychotherapy I did not even really know what it was. I knew I needed something because I knew I was struggling but whether that something was counselling, psychotherapy or what I simply had no idea.
As well as not having much of an idea about what to expect from my psychotherapy, I also had no idea about how long it would take. And I was impatient! It is therefore with a surprise that I look back upon my two-year journey of weekly one-to-one psychotherapy with some degree of awe with regards to how little I really understood what I needed and for how long; from my initial impatience, a sense of appreciation and security developed from knowing that on Tuesdays, at 5pm, I would be seeing my psychotherapist.
Where I say that psychotherapy taught me how to live life, I mean this in the sense of courageously living rather than existing.
Prior to psychotherapy I approached life and relationships from a default fear position. Not that I knew that at the time – the way I was all seemed perfectly normal to me. Normal is, after all what we are familiar with.
However, part of me also know that I felt unfulfilled and lacking in purpose and meaning. Meaning in terms of my own desires and meaning in terms of what relationships could offer me.
It has been through a slow process of learning to be in relationship with my psychotherapist that I have slowly learnt to have a healthy relationship with myself. Through being held in mind, I have learnt to hold myself on mind. And through trusting that the relationship with my psychotherapist was and is genuine, I have come to accept that just perhaps, relationships with others have something to offer me.
I am now two years into my ‘ongoing’ psychotherapy relationship. It has been hard, frustrating, frightening, constructive, containing and life enhancing all in equal measure. The only commitment: we both show up each week for the session.
How have I changed
Most of all I have let go of the past. My experiences still happened, of course. There is no magic to undo that. However I have accepted that I can still have a life without having gotten what I needed as a child. And through this have come to accept that I can treat myself differently to how I experienced my parents treating me.
My relationship with myself
‘Has psychotherapy made you happy?’, people I know sometimes ask me. No. But then happiness is not the purpose of life. I do, however, at times feel content and even happy. More importantly, I am able to feel the full range of human emotions without running away from them. I can navigate my emotional world using my mind in a way I simply could not before psychotherapy and instead would use all sorts of distractions to avoid feeling.
My relationship to others
I have far deeper and more authentic relationships with others – something I now realise I avoided in the past for fear of them really seeing me and then rejecting me.
Relationships have become important to me and I am far more able to tolerate difference in those around me – to accept that they have different minds.
Put simply, my life now has substance. I know more about who I am, who I have been and how I spent much of my life hiding from myself and others because of not feeling accepted; I now have compassion for this part of me.
Mark is an integrative psychotherapist primarily informed by attachment theory and object relations psychotherapy. He works relationally and sees individuals and couples in Hove and Lewes.