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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Setbacks are a Normal Part of Psychotherapy Along the Road to Healing

It often comes as a surprise to psychotherapy clients that setbacks are a normal part of any effort to change, including efforts to change in psychotherapy treatment.  Progress is almost never linear.  Along the way, there may be some detours and setbacks.  The challenge for most clients in psychotherapy is to stick with therapy when there are setbacks rather than giving up.

Setbacks are a Normal Part of Psychotherapy Along the Road to Healing
For many people, the inclination is to leave or to feel that therapy isn't working.  But if you know ahead of time that there will be certain setbacks along the path, you're more inclined to see these setbacks as temporary obstacles rather than getting frustrated and giving up.

People who have been involved in recovery programs for a while are more inclined to take setbacks in stride.  For instance, most people who are involved in 12 Step programs know that "relapse is part of recovery."  This doesn't mean that relapse is encouraged.  Rather, it recognizes, as human beings, we need to have compassion for ourselves and recognize that we'll make mistakes along the way.

The issue isn't about making mistakes or about temporary setbacks.  The real issue is about what you do when you have a setback:  Do you give up?  Do you become so frustrated with yourself that you feel you've failed?  Do you demand perfection of yourself (and possibly others)?  

A better approach for success in the long run is to learn from your mistakes or setbacks and get back on the path to progress.  Often, we learn more from making mistakes, in the long run, than if we just have a completely smooth path.  

If you look back on your own life, you can probably identify times when you learned a lot from making a mistake.  At the time, it might have felt very uncomfortable.  But with the advantage of hindsight, you can probably see that you learned from your mistake or setback and, possibly, you changed for the better in ways that you might never have changed if you hadn't experienced the setback.

When you have strong feelings about setbacks in psychotherapy, rather than leaving treatment, it's much more beneficial to discuss your feelings with your therapist.  You might not only be frustrated with yourself, but you also might feel angry with your therapist.  This is also a normal part of psychotherapy and most skilled, experienced psychotherapists know that this is part of treatment for many clients.  

For many clients who leave treatment when they've had a setback, this is part of a larger pattern in their lives where they give up and abandon their efforts when they make mistakes or when there are problems.  If this is your pattern, you have an opportunity to change this pattern in therapy in a way that's usually not available to you outside of therapy.  

Often, if you can stick it out and learn to tolerate your discomfort about a temporary setback, you can change a lifelong pattern so that you become more self confident.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006.


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