A little while ago, we asked our 3,000,000+ person social media community:
What questions do you have about therapy?
Lots of people responded, and the most common four questions were:
- What is the purpose of therapy?
- What are some red flags to look for in a therapist?
- Why hasn't therapy worked for me in the past?
- How long is "too long" to be in therapy?
So, professional counsellor and Depression Project co-founder Mathew Baker got together with renowned Australian television presenter Hayden Turner to film answers to each of these questions. You'll find the first video below - What is the purpose of therapy? - as well as the transcript of this video if you'd prefer to read along instead of listen :)
What Is The Purpose Of Therapy?
Video Transcript For What Is The Purpose Of Therapy?
Mat, today we wanted to open up a Q&A with you about therapy and ask you lots of questions about it and the complexities of navigating it and try and give us some guidance on that. I suppose we should open up by asking, what is the purpose of therapy?
So I think there's a bunch of different purposes of therapy and it's all quite unique to the individual. So I think if you ask many different people, therapy would mean many different things to a lot of them. For some, they want some more understanding. For some, they want safety. For some, they want some resolution to a presenting problem. Someone else may want a few tools to help them through something. And of course too, if someone has a diagnosis of depression or anxiety, they'd want a treatment plan and some sort of blueprint to help them work through those symptoms and the consequences of them, and to help them ultimately try to heal and get better.
So I think at the core of therapy itself, the purpose of it is to try to heal from or resolve a presenting problem, whatever that may look like. Again, it could be something grounded in the past, it could be in the present, it could be a diagnosis, since there's a lot of complexities around that. But the purpose of therapy is fundamentally to heal from or resolve something which is distressing or having a negative impact on someone's life in the mental health realm.
So it can be quite confronting for somebody to even think about what steps to go through and incredibly courageous to acknowledge that. Can you just talk to us about how you would take those first steps?
Well, I think the first step is acknowledging that there's something you'd like to improve, or again, get better in some way. Now there's different types of therapy too. So if you are seeing a private therapist, so you are paying a specific amount of money, probably a few hundred dollars, and you're paying for that one session, and the idea with that would be ongoing, because naturally therapy doesn't resolve everything in the first session, because you can't expect to necessarily get the value or the return on your investment in that first session, because to be a good therapist, you need to know what's going on with the client. You need to know what their triggers are, what does healing look like for them. And in terms of the therapeutic relationship too, that needs to be established, and it takes some sessions to get towards that place where you feel safe enough to open up with the therapist.
You are also letting your guard down a bit because it takes time to warm into this. You trust them and you feel like you're going to take that healing journey together. And you even feel confident in your therapist they can take you where you want to go because many different therapists have different techniques, different tools, different approaches. The application of those tools as well can be vastly different between different therapists depending on where they target those tools, for example. So if someone has a negative core belief, someone may target the bullying incident it's grounded in, someone may target the automatic thoughts which surface from that, someone may target something else with it. So it's very complex in general, and I think if you don't get that initial vibe, it only takes one or two sessions to acknowledge that maybe this isn't a therapist for you.
So, I would suggest giving a bit more of a warming up process, especially if you've never had therapy before. Because there are a lot of red and green flags in therapists, which are specific to the individual too. So, it's hard to navigate or even to suggest what your expectations should be for that first session. What I'd say is that, it would be that you are there to open up about what's problematic to you and trying to give as much information to the therapist as you feel able to give. That would be a great place to start, because again, that return on your investment or that benefit may not come yet because the therapist doesn't have much to work with.
Because again, if a hundred different people see a therapist and say, "I've got diagnosed with depression, help me." If you had to give advice in five minutes or an hour, it would be very generalised in nature because depression is many different things to many different people. But the more you know the specifics around it and the person, the more you're able to provide targeted help for them.
So, that's why I'm saying the first session would hopefully be a bit more of a "discovery session", trying to figure out how to establish that relationship and how the client can give as much to the therapist as they can. And then by giving as much as you can in terms of going through things, and hopefully they're also facilitating in allowing you to open up more and more and asking the right questions to know what the problem is and where it originates from, then you can start building out that client-therapist relationship in a positive way.