What do therapy and fitness have in common?
What do therapy and fitness have in common?
When I am asked to explain what therapy is I always come back to an ancient practice of telling a parable in the form of a story or a joke. Of course a therapy is no joke – but I will joke a little today – bear with me.
1. Reading self-help books, watching Youtube is not going to make you fit or happier (for long).
A person might read all the books about muscle training, subscribe to apps providing many interesting exercises and food plans, watch countless videos - but without actually doing the exercises and sticking to the diet there will be no visible and longlisting change.
The same is true with the therapy. You can read blogs, watch clips or hit mood apps multiple times a day, but if you do not engage in a relationship with a therapist, the change will not come.
If you were able to solve your problems on your own – they would probably be already solved.
2. Training with a personal trainer is better then working on your own.
Do you want to be as fit as your personal trainer? Hate to say this but a personal trainer will provide you with personalised exercises and a diet plan which give you better results than just following some online exercise routines.
This is true of your therapist. A therapist will listen to what you your whole being communicates in your sessions: things you express using words and the things you do not want to say but which your body tries to communicate. Your therapist will work with your through your emotions to lead you in your journey to a better mental health. Your therapist will go deeper than your conscious, and will listen to what your unconscious may communicate through the dreams.
What is more, a therapist is a person who went there, did that and got the T-shirt. While training to be a therapist an individual needs to be in personal therapy themselves for at least 3 years – so the stages that you will go through in your therapeutic journey have been walked already by your therapist; they know how rubbish you might feel, why you might fear what you do, and what defences you will put up.
3. No pain no gain.
Have you ever had this sinking feeling after getting motivated by some awesome crossfit celebrity, buying the nice gym outfit, subscribing to the gym finally you go to exercise and it is nothing like the fitness guru promised? It is hard, sometimes boring, uncomfortable and painful. Other people do not smell nice, it is hot, you are thirsty, muscles ache and everyone seems to be more confident than you. Healthy food does not taste as good as the comfort food you are used to. Waking up earlier to go to the gym makes you tired for the rest of the day. Quitting booze makes you angry and anxious. And so on – fantasy never equals the reality.
Unfortunately, in the most cases – if the therapy is nice and cosy - it does not work. If week after week you just have a nice conversation with a lovely therapist – you have been scammed – or pay dearly for a friendly chat. If you are not scared, angry, sad, fed up with your therapist - probably it is not working. The change is painful and it is not easy. There are of course different stages of therapy – but I promise there will be a time (if you are lucky) when you will feel your whole world is disintegrating. After that some people experience integration.
4. Being honest is the most important thing.
When setting exercising or diet plans the most important thing is to be completely honest. You will not lie to your personal trainer and say that that you like waking up at 5 am to go for a run, or that you absolutely hate chocolate. If you are honest with your personal trainer they would be able to plan better and find the way of easing you into routines.
In therapy it is crucial to be honest about how you feel about yourself, other people and the therapist because it helps the process. When therapist knows how the client feels – it gives the indications where to go with the treatment.
5. Persistence is the key.
When someone starts exercising the first visible changes might be seen after about 8 weeks. Unfortunately if you want to keep those changes you need to exercise at least 3 times a week for the rest of your life.
It is also similar with therapy. If you start therapy, give it a go and stay for a while – work through the difficult patches and reap the benefits. There are the raptures to the therapeutic relationship because, surprise surprise, the counsellor is a human and makes mistakes. Working through the raptures will teach you a lot about yourself and how you relate to others.
6. If you do not like your therapist look for a new one (there are plenty of them).
The secret to the good fitness is to find something you love doing: running, swimming, crossfit, yoga. Some people alternate between many exercises: if they are feed up with running they might switch to cycling for a while. Whatever rocks your boat – as long it gets you moving. Do not forget that you can have a new personal trainer every single week if the old one is not your cup of tea.
When it comes to therapy there are two things you can choose from: the therapist’s personality and the therapeutic approach that they work in. If after the few first session (let’s say 4 to 6 ) you are not feeling comfortable with your therapist – maybe this is a sign to look for a new one. The other thing is the therapeutic orientation: if you want to work on problems fast, CBT might be for you, if you need to dig into your past, look into psychodynamic, etc. Have a session of art therapy or dance therapy – shop around. Find something that your feel comfortable with.