#VoicesofTherapy: Why didn’t I get myself in here sooner?
“So, what brings you in today?” I sat politely, smiling, on the receiving end of this question. I knew it was coming and I had practiced what I would say. “Keep it short and simple…you’ll be out of here in no time.”
I took a deep breath before answering, quieting the thoughts of “fuck this” that were running through my mind. That was my first experience in therapy and I know what you’re thinking…isn’t this supposed to be a story about how therapy has positively impacted you? Well, yes, but it wouldn’t be accurate if I left out some of the less appealing parts of my journey.
I first entered therapy when I was a teenager. At that time, I wanted nothing to do with it and showed up simply to appease my parents. I was a “good, perfect” client. I showed up week after week (for years) and did what I thought was my part of the deal. Eventually it was good enough and I terminated from therapy.
I spent the next few years living life without it. At that time, I didn’t realize how much of an impact my initial experience with therapy had on me and the trajectory of my life. Looking back, I realize how often I would find myself thinking about my time in therapy and the insights that I had gained. I would catch myself referring back to specific sessions and felt held and grounded in those moments.
It was also that first experience with therapy that contributed to my curiosity of pursuing a career in the field. More recently, I entered therapy at a time in my life where I was at a significant crossroad. I was struggling and knew it but ironically felt hesitant to reach out for support as a therapist myself (mental health and therapy stigma is still so real and needs to continue to be addressed). The universe, however, had my back and I was able to connect with my current therapist through my supervisor at the time.
This time around, the “fuck this” thought was replaced with “fuck, why didn’t I get myself in here sooner?” This time around, I was in a different place in my life. However, some of the most impactful and significant aspects of my therapy experiences have been consistent.
Therapy has provided me a space to dig deep, gain insight and understanding of myself, and feel held, seen, and heard. My therapists have been there alongside me while I have been in the trenches of life and to celebrate some of my biggest accomplishments. They have held space for me through grief, loss, anger, sadness, uncertainty, excitement, joy. They have shown me that therapy is so much more than the coping skills, the homework assignments, the diagnoses and that, at its core and essence, is the connection and relationship. That is where so much of the healing and growth process can and has occurred for me.
Presently, I approach my work as a therapist from a relational and attachment-based framework. I have the opportunity and privilege to hold space for my clients as I help them to navigate this wild terrain known as life. And with each client I work with, I carry with me my own experiences of therapy, the knowing of how powerful therapy can be, and how much possibility lies in the simple question of “so, what brings you in today?”
—Janine O’Brien, Psy.D., a therapist in Huntington, NY you can match with on Mental Health Match.
Want to help others by sharing your therapy story? You can do so anonymously at http://bit.ly/voicesoftherapy.