Gifts of PsychotherapyAugust 9th, 2018 by Aida Pigott
As I write this article, I contemplate and reflect on the many clients whom I have had the great fortune of working with over the years. Among all of my clients, there was one that stuck out, Mrs. D. I remember Mrs. D very clearly, who I met shortly after joining Beverly Therapists in private practice. Mrs. D is a well-educated elderly woman, who has had an amazing life as a wife, a sister, a mother and a friend. Our sessions consisted of her life review, her anxiety about her health, and other factors contributing to her own vulnerability in her golden years. I have a deep respect and a great admiration for her integrity to continue with therapy, even when sometimes she reports feeling awkward because she is at a loss about what to explore in our sessions.
A therapist such as myself is accustomed to serving clients who vary in age, and who are at different life stages. They are truly extraordinary people who have the courage to dive deeper, understand their emotional life, their emotional wounds, and their emotional crises, by first admitting that they can’t walk alone through the wilderness without a trusted guide. Over the years, I have sat in the same room with clients who had buried their spouses and their lifelong companions, and with parents who prematurely had to mourn their beloved children. “There are no words….,” is my response to the broken hearted. The most common inquiry I received from bereaved clients is, “How do I go on?” This question is met with a genuine answer from me which is, “I don’t know yet, but since psychotherapy is a process of collaboration between us, we will figure it out together in time.”
One of the gifts of psychotherapy is having someone bear witness to those emotional wounds and crises. I have noticed that some clients shed tears easily in their first session with me, while others hold back their tears until they can no longer contain them, and yet others remain simply numb and unable to weep openly. These remarkable individuals all share something in common: they are wise adults who know that life is simply unpredictable, that bad things do happen to good people, and suffering through it all alone is an option. They chose not to suffer alone. Instead, they opted for a meaningful connection where communication and understanding go hand in hand within the four walls of my office. The process of psychotherapy is about instilling hope and, hence, making the unbearable less painful. Healing takes place and is evident within the context of our relationship.
There are many sources of emotional pain and suffering besides bereavement, which can include, but are not limited to, stresses in the workplace, not getting along with significant others, and/or past traumas that can still be haunting and daunting. Another gift of psychotherapy is the gift of self- exploration. Through the collaboration of client and therapist, clients are afforded the opportunity to understand what life events became a significant part of their history. It can be a life event that they continue to celebrate and be proud of, or circumstances that had led to terror, sadness, sorrows, shame, guilt and so on and so forth. The question I pose to my clients is “What has happened to you?” and never “What is wrong with you?”
Through psychotherapy, clients begin to understand the roots of their faulty thinking and their negative self-beliefs that drive their distressing emotions and behaviors. The gift of psychotherapy is a gift of becoming more aware, more informed and more insightful about breaking the unconscious patterns that no longer serve clients in their day to day living. It is about thinking, feeling, and living life in a more adaptive manner. In simplest terms, psychotherapy is a process of recalibration.
The opportunity for self-reinvention is perhaps one of the greatest gifts of psychotherapy. Again and again, I have shared in the experiences of clients who simply have lost a sense of who they are. They are not who they used to be. They are feeling disconnected from family and friends and from society due to a number of reasons; mostly from losses, but that are not necessarily stemming from physical death alone. Other life changing circumstances can include a medical diagnosis, a traumatic automobile accident and/or a divorce, for example. Especially when these events are sudden and shocking, clients can become more anxious, more depressed, more negative and lacking in pleasure. Psychotherapy is a supportive process that gently challenges clients to find their authentic self, to discover new meaning and purpose by living through their core values.
I can still picture Mrs. D climbing the steep stairs to my office. Her body, standing the test of time, now in its 90s, is thin and frail, but also demonstrates her spirit of resilience. Mrs. D, you said more than you realized. I see you, and all that you are. Your stories were not told in vain.
*I dedicate this article to my clients who I have a great honor and privilege to serve. I also dedicate this article to my beloved psychiatrist, Dr. B whose gentleness, compassion, love and friendship makes it so much easier to be on the other side of the couch. To all my clients, and to Dr. B, thank you for allowing me into your lives*
About the Author
Aida Pigott, LCSW, CADC, BCD has extensive training and experience with supporting individuals and groups through the terrain of grief and loss. She is eternally optimistic, and believes in the power of love, nurturing and support to help return to the flow of life and hope, no matter what.