I love that therapy is a topic of discussion on Insecure and that Molly has started going to therapy this season. I appreciate the transition from Molly being angry at Issa for hinting that she might benefit from therapy to Molly actively engaging in therapy and Issa supporting her in the process. It would be wonderful if more friends could support each other in going to therapy and talk about how it is going. In this post I highlight a couple of things related to Molly’s pursuit of therapy that I think we can learn from.
Find the right therapist for you
During the first episode of season 2 Molly and Issa discuss the fact that Molly has met with a couple of different therapists in her effort to find the right person for her. This is significant because so many people go to a few session of therapy with one therapist and if that therapist isn’t the right fit they give up on therapy all together. One reason for this that it takes a lot of courage to go therapy and it can be disheartening to go to a few sessions with one therapist, share your story, and then figure out that person is not going to work for you. However, while finding a therapist can certainly be a challenging process it is important to stick with it until you find someone who feels right for you. Think about finding a therapist like you might think about dating. Just like you wouldn’t go one one bad date and give up on dating all together, I encourage you not to do that with therapy. Therapists are humans and they have different personalities and styles and just like you won’t be a good romantic match for everyone you go on a date with, you won’t be a good therapeutic match for every therapist you meet.
The second issue that arises in the two scenes focused on Molly going to therapy is her apprehension about opening up and sharing her thoughts and feelings with her therapist. The therapist highlights that Molly has been talking about work and her brother and alludes to Molly not opening up and talking about herself. When Molly is discussing her session with with Issa she remarks that the therapist is trying to get “all up in her business.” I have worked with clients like Molly before. With these clients it feels like part of them wants to be in therapy and get the support they need and another part of them is ambivalent about opening up and being vulnerable enough to do the work that will be most helpful. This is a challenge for therapists and we are trained to know how to work with clients around their apprehensions and anxieties related to opening up in therapy. However, there are things that clients can do to help themselves get most out of therapy. The following are my recommends for how you can make the most of therapy.
Say what you’re scared of saying
Most people overlook how powerful it can be to tell someone that you trust a secret or burden that you have been carrying. Many clients I see tell me that just talking about their concerns during the initial session helped them to feel better. It is a significant experience to share something that you feel ashamed about and have a therapist respond with warmth and acceptance to the very thing you felt made you unworthy of love and care. If you are seeing a therapist I encourage you to say the things that you are most hesitant to say. This is what will help you to begin the growth-promoting work of therapy.
Think about what you would like to work on
Having a sense of what you would like to work on in therapy and what you would like to get out of it can make it more useful. Some people just want to use therapy as a space to process their experiences, while other people may want to address the anxiety that is keeping them from living life in the way that they want. Others may want to understand relationship challenges they are having. It is helpful to have a sense of what you want to focus on and to discuss this with your therapist. This can also help guide your search for a therapist that is a good fit for you. As you begin therapy and between sessions I encourage you to think about how you want to spend your time in therapy so that you can make the most of your 50 minutes each week. If you are unsure of what you would like to address it can be helpful to talk to your therapist to come up with areas to explore so that the time feels useful for you.
Let yourself cry and be vulnerable in the therapy room
It is fairly common for clients to avoid being vulnerable during therapy and to apologize for crying during sessions. I think our avoidance of vulnerability is something that most of us have been socialized into, we instinctively pull away when someone or something touches a part of us that hurts emotionally. When I finally went to therapy during graduate school I think it probably took about 5-6 months for me to truly get vulnerable with my therapist. I wasn’t consciously aware that I was avoiding this but looking back on it it’s clear to me that I was presenting as having it all together even in the therapy room. If you’re finding it hard to open up in therapy, I encourage you to talk about your feelings of resistance to being vulnerable in sessions. That way your therapist can help guide you in the process. Also, it is important to remember that tears are welcome in the therapy room; they are a normal result of exploring and the processing hurt and pain that we’ve experienced.
Persist even when it is hard
Therapy is wonderful and uplifting at times and sometimes it is really hard. It is not uncommon for things to start feeling worse before they get better when you are doing therapy. This is because when we explore traumas and wounds that were previously ignored or suppressed the process of unearthing past hurts causes us to feel these things again. This process is necessary in order to heal so that our lives are no longer directed by our trauma, depression, anxiety, etc. You should never feel unsafe with your therapist but there will likely be times when you will feel uncomfortable. I encourage you to persist even when therapy gets hard. Talk to your therapist about what this is like for you so that they can slow the process down if it is moving too fast. Tell your friends about how the process is going so that they can encourage you to continue if you feel like stopping.
Give feedback if therapy isn’t working for you
You might be surprised by how rare it is for therapists to get feedback from clients if something we are doing isn’t working for them. If your physician gave you a medication that wasn’t working for you, you would likely let them know fairly quickly about the side effects you were experiencing and the fact that your symptoms weren’t remitting, yet this rarely happens during therapy. I know that it can be challenging to tell a therapist that something isn’t working but I encourage you to try. We sincerely want to support you and it is helpful to know if something we are doing doesn’t seem useful. If you are considering quitting therapy, I encourage you to have a conversation with your therapist about what isn’t working to determine if there is a way for them to give you what you are looking for and potentially improve their practice overall. The way most therapist figure out that that the therapy they’re providing isn’t helpful for a client is through that client dropping out of therapy.
If you think therapy would be helpful for you I encourage you to take Molly’s lead and look for a therapist (check out my post on Finding and Choosing a Therapist for guidance on that process). I hope the things I’ve highlighted in this post help you make the most of therapy.