“What do you do for a living”? I was asked, at a dinner recently by an American cardiologist. “I am a psychotherapist”, I replied with a sense of joy. “Oh, so you fix the brain?” asked the gentleman with a grin on his face. “No! just the heart..” I explained.
Ever since I have started introducing myself as an emerging therapist, I have come across many people who are intrigued by the concept of psychotherapy. They usually have questions in mind such as “Can I bring my wife to you?” or remarks such as “Oh everyone needs therapy these days” or “I don’t need therapy instead I can give therapy to others”.
One major misconception in minds of the people I meet is that therapy is for severe mental disorders. I find myself explaining to them that a psychotherapist aims to help individuals who are facing challenges in their daily lives due to emotional difficulties that may have roots in the past.
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Using this opportunity to write for an online news portal, I am going to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the concepts of psychotherapy.
What is the concept of psychotherapy?
A standard question! Psychotherapy is the use of psychological methods, based on personal interaction, to help a person change his behavior and overcome his problems in a desired way. A therapist works to discover the ‘unconscious mind’ of a client which is normally inaccessible to his conscious mind but influences his feelings and behavior. It is a professional space where the client is encouraged and facilitated to open up about their feelings and emotions without any fear of judgment.
Why does one need therapy when one has friends?
To answer this question I’m not going to list the benefits of having friends as we all know that there are countless blessings and joyful moments that come with maintaining genuine friendships. I will shed light on how your therapist should typically work. Your therapist is a professionally trained individual helping you work through your problems, in a professional setting.
He is trained to keep his own biases, problems, judgments and opinions to himself and only focus on his client’s issues and his well being. He is almost under an oath to maintain complete fool proof confidentiality of the therapeutic process. You as a client are allowed to take all the time and space in the room to unwind and release your stressful thoughts.
Who is a perfect candidate for therapy?
Anyone who has been feeling down, feels unable to deal with their problems at home or work, has been anxious is a good candidate for therapy. Contrary to popular belief, therapy isn’t just for individuals dealing with severe mental disorders.
What kind of issues do clients normally come with?
Most clients I see are suffering from symptoms such as depression, anxiety, drug abuse, somatic physical complaints and insomnia. The root cause of the issues are mostly relationship troubles such as ongoing divorce, abusive patterns of a spouse and over controlling parenting styles or work related stress. A lot of clients are suffering from low self-esteem and self-image as well.
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Don’t you get depressed dealing with problems of others on a daily basis?
Well that’s a tough one. I do sometimes feel overwhelmed during a heavy session but that feeling comes from a place of protectiveness and compassion for a troubled client. The thought of helping them through their most difficult times gives me hope and strength to deal with my feelings. Sometimes, a therapist is the only person in a client’s life who is hearing him out
What is the hardest lesson you’ve learnt as a therapist?
I have had to learn that I cannot help everyone. I have to accept that my clients won’t get better unless they are willing to face their own fears and tolerate discomfort. I know that I can help my clients learn how to manage stress and anxiety but I cannot practically do the work for them. I have limitations as a human and I can only create awareness for my clients but they need to make use of their new found self-awareness.
What advice would you give to the readers for themselves?
I would advise my readers that they should treat themselves with love, care and respect. They must allow themselves to feel and not suppress their emotions. The tone of every other relationship they have is set by the relationship they have with themselves. And lastly, don’t hesitate to seek help for your emotional wellbeing from a professional.
Hajira Tariq is a psychotherapist based in Islamabad. She can be reached at Hajiratariq14@gmail.com. She also has an Instagram page @ home_of_therapy