Ted Rice, Clinical Counselor at the Vanderbilt work/Life Connections-EAP, highlights the fears and the positive reasons about engaging in a psychotherapy relationship.
Rosemary Cope: Welcome to this edition of the Vanderbilt Health and Wellness Wellcast. I am Rosemary Cope with Work/Life Connections.
My guest today is my colleague, Ted Rice, who is a clinical counselor at the Vanderbilt Work/Life Connections Employee Assistance Program. Ted completed his master’s in education and human development counseling right here at Vanderbilt.
You know, the decision to seek out therapy can be wrought with fear, ambivalence, and shame. You may be struggling with some issue, or you might want to improve your own mental state and while popular culture affirms the merits of wellness too often mental health is still stigmatized making the decision to enter therapy even more difficult. If you are considering therapy or if you are about to have your own first therapy session, you might be nervous, skeptical, or downright frightened about starting. Many of these fears may have led you to have some unrealistic ideas about the therapy relationship. So, Ted, would you talk about some of the myths surrounding therapy?
Ted Rice: Rosemary, thanks for having me on today. You know, as you stated, seeking help, clinical assistance, can be exceedingly difficult. I think one of the key myths when we consider counseling is this idea of, I must have failed taking care of my own issues myself, and I always explained to clients that asking for help, it really is not a sign of failure, but it truly is a tangible expression of one's courage. The truth and the fact is that we all have what I call blind spots about ourselves and the world in which we live. The therapy that we enter provides us the opportunity to examine not only our interior lives, our relationship with ourselves, but the world in which we live, so again, therapy provides, really, the opportunity to gain insight into these blind spots, education and skills to make the adjustments we need to get unstuck and move forward in life with improved confidence, empowerment and the opportunity to meet our clinical goals that will be formulated as we continue in the counseling process.
Rosemary Cope: The therapy relationships, what we have been talking about to some degree, it is unlike any other that we are going to have. You, as the client, will spend time with someone who is initially a stranger talking about some of your more hurtful or distressing situations. You will know little or nothing about your therapist's private life, and they will know everything about yours. Ted, can you also share with our listeners some of the facts about the effectiveness of therapy?
Ted Rice: Definitely. Therapy real simply said, I think it is one of the kindest, most gentleness gifts we can give ourselves. I say that with every client that comes in. People are so concerned, will this work, will it help, and it always does. Having the opportunity, a safe place, to look at our pattern of our issues and to sit with another professional to begin to share what is hurting, to begin to share what we have considered, to begin to examine and share that which we do not have a knowledge of when we enter into care. Frankly, therapy, it is effective. It gives our clients opportunity to, what I call, uncover the source of our problems, then to discover the connection between the past and our current lives, and gives us really opportunity to self-correct and, frankly, feel better Rosemary.
Rosemary Cope: Ted, one of the things you said I loved, and that was about therapy being gift, a kind gift to ourselves. That is wonderful. Because I know, it is not always an easy process for somebody to go through and someone might feel worse before they feel better. How would someone know if it is working and if their therapist is a good fit for them?
Ted Rice: Great questions. Is it working, right? The first question that you asked, is it working? It is hard initially. What I have noticed over the years in a counseling process and our clients notice that often times other people see the changes happening to ourselves before we see them. So, I encourage folks to ask for feedback. I know here at Work/Life Connections EAP we use some pretty sophisticated rating scales when folks come in, we use a Burn's Depression and anxiety inventories so we can actually see objectively the severity of the hurt and pain a person has, and then in the counseling process, we can go back in a month, two months and we can retest, and then there becomes a tangible difference. It is evident that the therapy is working. Besides scales, really Rosemary feedback from others is critical to know if our counseling is working. We can seek feedback from our medical providers, from our families, our friends, our colleagues, and we can get that feedback from our counselors as well. I think some simple questions to ask is counseling working, ask yourself these questions: Am I experiencing hope? Do I feel optimism? Do I feel unstuck? I kind of just feel like myself again. Are the skills that I am working on and learning from my counselor, are they helping to address my specific issues or problems? The other part of your question, goodness of fit, is real tricky because I think often times clients will stay stuck in therapy, sometimes because of their own stuff that is going on and their inability to connect with the therapist. Yet, other times, it really is an ineffective relationship between the counselor and the client and if that is the fact then it is really important to bring it up into therapy and talk with your provider about this so that things can be resolved so that if it is my stuff that is blocking the relationship let's talk about it. If it actually is exterior and has to do with a lack of connection, then simply ask your counselor or therapist for a referral. We really will not take it personal, so I encourage you to use your voice and ask for what you need.
Rosemary Cope: Ted, thank you for sharing your insights about this. I think, based on your own personal experiences of being a counselor for all these years, these are great insights and good advice for somebody who is considering or is about to start therapy and for our listeners, if you would like to get a taste of that or you have something that you would like to initially start with, please contact us at the Work/Life Connections Employee Assistance Program and we would be happy to talk to you about any and all of your concerns.
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