I like to think that counseling is a snowglobe of our expansive relational, emotional and behavioral lives. The counseling office is a safe container to test internal narratives, share embarrassing patterns and learn new ways of existing with fulfillment.
That comfy couch, in this light, is a secure base to find objectivity from the real world and test your internal hypotheses, challenge unwanted behaviors, and deconstruct unworkable, outdated coping mechanisms that keeps you cycling through unwelcome patterns. But therapy is designed to take you beyond the comfy cushions and four walls that comprise the confidential, therapeutic space.
To leverage what you learn in a counseling office, I recommend practicing your new skills and insights in your everyday life beyond the microcosm of counseling; this is where things get juicy!
The courage to step into newness––which requires your honesty––will catapult your sessions from a simple conversation into life-changing momentum.
Here are 3 practices to get every bang for your counseling buck:
1. Awareness. Awareness. Awareness.
Like a mantra to be rehearsed, awareness is your stabilizing force during a therapeutic journey. Awareness can lengthen any fuse, slow a momentous pattern or bring clarity to an angry loved one’s claims. As you garner awareness in your sessions––calling you beyond outdated tactics––aim to keep this awareness at the forefront of your attention, precisely so that you can monitor old mistakes and discover new remedies.
Awareness demystifies the subconscious patterns that allows you to feel out of control, and it places you in the driver’s seat of your decisions. Awareness gives us the power to drive through challenging relational terrains successfully. It allows us to be in charge of our actions and words, ultimately leading us towards an internal peace. Over time, client and therapist can establish a rooted identity and upstanding integrity. That’s what we’re here for!
You can’t do better unless you know better.
2. Be Courageous To Approach Patterns Differently
Once your awareness starts to accumulate, the goal is to take fearless steps to actually test something different, something new.
Courageous steps look like listening differently from behind a new boundary. The empathy that ensues might just shift an old and annoying repeating argument into a harmonious conversation that facilitates bonding. A courageous step also might look like facing an addiction or implementing a new way of affirming your self-worth. It takes courage to implement the truth of who we are, especially when we’ve believed false narratives for most of our lives.
I always tell my clients that one of the most courageous things I’ve ever done was let others fully love me. Before this bold step, however, my body would go on red alert––”I’m not in control!”––, which happened in moments when being loved was possible, the moments I should have let love in. Learning to be vulnerable and open to unconditional love challenged my central nervous system and confused my relational operating system at first. Consider it healthy, though, to deconstruct emotional/physiological patterns that stabilize your fears. Doing so will leave your body, heart, and mind feeling so utterly safe.
Stepping into newness requires a fearlessness that we didn’t need when we prefered to stay comfortable in our pain. Comfortable in our pain, isn’t that ironic and unfortunate?
But as you climb the mountain we call The Fear of Vulnerability over and over again, the stamina you build and the familiar terrain transforms a mountain into a molehill from which you’ll simply step off of easily. The awareness/courage combo will take you to new heights of confidence and greater depths of safety and belonging.
3. Identity Change Is the Ultimate Root System
One of the reasons we decided to name our practice iAmClinic was that it would be place where people of the LGBTQ community and their families can leave behind old messages like, “I am unlovable” or “I am a failure” and adopt messages like, “I am loved” and “I am worthy.” We designed a clinic for the broken ‘I am’s’ of our internal narrative.
The scaffolding we climb on the therapeutic journey––from awareness building to courage taking––allows us to rewrite not only our internal definitions of love and relationships, but also our self-concepts and self-confidence. As we learn about who we are, why we behave in particular ways, and how to create change, we are emboldened to activate our life-changing plan. We eventually engender an internal dialogue that fuels the construction of the life we are proud to lead and the relationships that keep us fulfilled.
Many people enter therapy believing that they might not be strong enough, they might not be worthy enough, or they might be beyond redemption. But as we restore our identity, we restore our love lives and our self-esteem.
Therapy is a great resource for a variety of reasons. But the sessions alone won’t be enough to create change. Practice what you learn with a fearlessness that changes your world from the inside out. This is where you will see the greatest and most profound change.
Does therapy really work? Of course, but it needs your cooperation and collaboration. You are powerful enough to create the life you want. Therapy shows you the way. Sitting on a therapist’s couch might seem like a weird vantage point, but this view will change your life.