Counseling: from Cold and Clinical to Empowering and Efficient
I have experience with counseling from both sides of the office: I spent 10 years in therapy trying to address PTSD and have my bachelors and masters in social work with years of experiencing doing the typical case management and counseling path.
And after it all, I walked away from individual work and pursuing my LCSW.
After 10 years with a number of therapists I found therapy:
Awkward and cold, clinical - it is hard to get so vulnerable with a stranger, but also a stranger that is definitively, purposefully, not your friend. I felt the sense of a dance between the therapist and I - the pressure, on both of us, to perform the right steps in order to work harmoniously together. It was inevitably tricky, and …
Time intensive - it takes so much time to go through a narrative, and build a relationship that allows for the confrontation and up front discussion necessary for treatment
Not effective - 10 years is a long time, I moved and went to college and graduated and in that time I saw about 5 therapists, and stayed with most of them at least a year. They were comforting and helpful, like a band aid or security blanket, but never did I see lasting treatment on my anxiety and PTSD.
Not sustainable - maybe this was bad luck, but as I said, I saw a lot of different therapists, and not one them created a strategy for my treatment, for not needing a therapist regularly anymore. I would often leave sessions confused and not knowing where the work was going.
As a social worker and case manager I spent years working with therapists and saw my clients face a similar story. However, where I was always open to therapy, many of my clients were not - they had grown jaded to therapy, they didn’t believe in it, it had a burdensome taboo.
Therapy left them feeling like damaged goods. “If this can’t help me, what can?” Feeling no tangible progress after their sessions and the same sense of confusion, but worse - because this person was supposed to be the expert.
The community centers that took my clients’ insurance were plagued with burn out and high turn over among their therapists. Some of my clients over the years were foster children - they had faced horrible trauma and they had to rehash these painful narratives to somebody new, and who knew how long this therapist would stick around after all that?
So for a while I walked a way from working with individuals, I didn’t believe in it anymore. I also walked a way from another ineffective therapist.
I didn’t want to give up on my dream - I’ve always been interested in psychology and being a partner in achieving wellbeing with others.
So although I continued to pursue education, it was in my drive to finally treat my PTSD that I encountered a therapist that did treat my PTSD -in less than a year - and who introduced me to a methodology I got certification in that has me believing and pursuing my dream again.
The methodology is AAIT: Acceptance and Integration Training © and here is why I practice it:
1. Sessions are practical, action oriented with tangible results at the end of each session.
After discussing what the client is struggling with most, or wants to address that day, or what their goals for the session are, you jump into an exercise to resolve that problem and achieve that goal.
The work, the session, isn't done until it the original issue doesn’t feel like a problem anymore.
Of course there are issues that need more work than others and take more than a 1 hour session, but every session ends with the client feeling more capable and having a tangible game plan.
2. It is empowering and non hierarchal
Clients learn exercises to bring the work home - leaving them immediately more capable and competent to tend to their own wellbeing without therapy.
Also, every session I discuss with the client the exact problem they seek to address, how we are going to address it this session and why.
This collaborative agreement leaves clients feeling like an expert inside and outside of the session.
3. No need to rehash a narrative …again
What a huge burden to have lifted off clients - they can build trust and get tangible results without having to take the time telling their story to a stranger.
Of course after seeing the effectiveness and building trust, aspects of their past are part of exercises we can do together. However, it is never necessary to perform the exercises and get results.
4. It’s quick
Because we don't have to rehash a narrative or a build a relationship as a requirement to the exercises and results, I am able to jump into addressing problems immediately with clients.
Additionally, between having exercises to do on their own and because we address an issue every single session, problems are resolved and goals are achieved quickly.
5. It is real and sustainable.
The way AAIT works, clients discuss what is top of mind at the beginning of the session and you immediately jump into an exercise that focuses on:
of the thoughts, images, emotions and body sensations that are tied to a problematic experience
Acceptance teaches you not to resign yourself to these sometimes dysfunctional reactions, or to like them. It teaches you to be with them, work with them. It teaches you to not let these reactions get in the way of responding to a situation or caring for yourself.
This acceptance spreads from within to without - a greater acceptance to circumstances that were difficult before, to the realities of life, and of others.
or uniting opposites - seeing how opposing states like sadness and happiness, are connected and similar.
This work helps us to appreciate that our selves, lives, others, and this world are whole: good and bad and everything in between.
When we can understand this, it eliminates the tension between these extremes - the pull and push back and forth. It helps us roll with the inevitable changes. To respond instead of react. To embrace challenges as much as the good times. To not feel swayed towards or repelled from all the stimuli in life but strong, calm, and grounded in the middle of it.
Overall this work leaves clients feeling less stressed, shut down, heavy, and stuck and more empowered, confident, peaceful, and free to be their true selves.
It has been fulfilling. I love this work, and I believe in it.
It feels right to me - full of integrity as something that is actually empowering, sustainable, and TREATS clients.