I spent 10 years in therapy. It was helpful - like a band aid, or a security blanket, but not like a treatment, for the PTSD I struggled with. Sessions were often awkward, cold. I would leave confused and not knowing where the work was going.
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 took so much time.
10 years is a long time, I moved and went to college and graduated, and I spent a lot of time with each of the many therapists I saw. Unfortunately this story was the same with each of them.
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.
In extreme examples, therapy was a form of torture - sitting through another cold hour with a professional that taught them nothing and left them feeling like damaged goods was unbearable… thoughts like “If this can’t help me, what can?” Feeling no tangible progress after these sessions and the same sense of confusion, now worse, because this person was supposed to be the expert.
It didn’t help that 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?
I walked away from case management and my dream of counseling. I went back to school, and got my masters in social work but this time I focused on “macro” work - non profit organization, community activism and engagement, advocacy work. I felt powerless to help people on an individual level.
I also walked a way from another therapist after over a year and a half - no tangible progress had been made on my recovery from PTSD and my relationship was in trouble. I don’t know why I believed anymore, but I did look for another therapist.
She uses a methodology she created called AAIT: Acceptance and Integration Training (TM) and it changed my life. Why?
1. Sessions were practical, action oriented with tangible results at the end of each session.
After discussing what I was most struggling with or wanted to deal with or what my goals were, we would jump into an exercise to resolve that problem and achieve that goal. The work, the session, wasn't done until it didn't feel like a problem anymore.
Of course there were issues that needed more work than others and took more time than 1 session, but every session ends with feeling more capable and having a tangible game plan.
2. It was empowering and non hierarchal
I learned exercises to bring the work home - I immediately felt more ability and competence to tend to my own wellbeing without therapy.
Also, every session my therapist would explain this is the problem you are seeking to address, this is how we are going to address it this session and here's why.
If I didn't understand or if that didn't capture the problem I wanted to address or I wanted to take a different tack then we would change gears. It was very collaborative and therefore I felt like an expert in tending to my wellbeing inside and outside of the session.
3. I didn’t have to rehash my narrative again
What a huge burden to have lifted - I could build trust and get tangible results without having to take the time telling my story to a stranger.
Of course after seeing the effectiveness and building trust, aspects of my past were part of exercises we did together and I felt safe to share. However, it was never necessary to get results.
4. It was quick
Because we didn't have to rehash my narrative or a build a relationship as a requirement to the exercises and results, we were able to jump into addressing problems immediately.
Additionally, between having exercises to do on my own and because we would address an issue every single session you just resolved issues and achieved goals quickly.
I now feel truly treated in my PTSD and mood disorders. I see my therapist maybe once every month or two - when I feel like it - and it took less than a year.
5. It was real and sustainable.
The way AAIT works, you discuss what is top of mind as you come in to the session and you immediately jump into an exercise that focuses on:
Acceptance 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 I feel less stressed, shut down, heavy, and stuck and more empowered, confident, peaceful, and free to be me.
So I was inspired to get training and learn these techniques myself to fulfill my dream of being a partner in helping others through their journey to achieve wellbeing.
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.
Thank you for sticking with me on this one. What has your experience with therapy been? How do you feel about counseling? I would love hearing from you!
If you are ready to try this out, please let me know -we can do a free mini session. :)