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Seven Things Your Therapist Wishes You Knew...

1) A diagnosis is just a starting place: While a mental health diagnosis is important and can be helpful in understanding what is going on, it is just a starting place in therapy. Diagnoses are given based on a set of criteria that therapists assess for but are not an endpoint. In therapy, we look to treat the whole person and focus on the presenting concerns that you bring in. By focusing on you and what symptoms are present, we can be far more comprehensive in our approach than by looking at any diagnosis alone.

2) Boundaries are the rules we make for our own behavior: Boundaries help to clearly define where you end and where another person begins. We can only decide what we do or do not do. Healthy boundaries allow for us to grow and develop without rigidity but also ensure that we are doing what is best for us. Developing healthy boundaries is not about “cutting people off” or putting up walls. Instead, boundaries are about the rules and expectations we have for our own behaviors. Examples of boundaries may be saying no to an extra request in order to have some much needed alone time or making decisions about what we are or are not comfortable discussing with others.

3) Social media doesn’t have all of the answers: While social media can be an invaluable tool, whether it is to give you information or connect with others, it can also be misleading. I love that social media has created a gateway to more openness about mental health. However, with viral trends and people thinking about getting more “likes”, we can be inundated with very specific posts that make certain diagnoses feel like they are everywhere and present in everyone. It is important to remember that what is posted is filtered through someone else’s lens or can even be created based on trends.

4) We don’t do this for the money: Have you ever wondered why your therapist does what they do? While each one will give you their own response, at the core is a deep desire to help others. We have spent years learning both in school and in ongoing trainings to provide services that are evidence based. This work is hard work, and we do not do it for a paycheck. Yes, it is our job, but we are not paid to care. We do it for the people who we can assist in their healing. We do it for you!

5) You are the expert of your story: You know you better than anyone else ever will. When mental health concerns come into play, it is easy to forget this. As therapists, we are honored to walk alongside you on your journey to heal. When we ask you what you would like to work on, it is not in an effort to deflect. It is because you know what you need.

6) Therapists are not advice givers: There is a misconception related to therapy-that therapists are there to “fix”. Many times, it can be tempting to say “Can you just tell me what to do?” I don’t know about you, but I’ve certainly asked people in my life this question before. However, as therapists, our role is never to tell you what to do but to, instead, illuminate and explore options in order to help you make your own informed decisions. And we will be there to support you through it!

7) You are not broken. You are stronger than you know: My heart breaks each time I hear “I’m broken. I can’t be fixed”, or some version of this. You are incredible. You have survived 100% of everything that life has thrown at you and are still here standing. Struggling does not make you weak; it means you are trying. While the journey is not easy, we believe in you.

Post by Kim Howard, LISW-S
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