NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Friday, February 23, 2018

Making a Change Requires Taking Action: Psychotherapy Can Help When You Feel Stuck

Developing insight into your problems is a necessary part of psychotherapy.  But if you want to make changes in your life, you also need to take action.  In most cases, insight alone isn't enough to bring about lasting change (see my article:  Common Myths About Psychotherapy: Therapy is "All Talk and No Action" and Common Myths About Psychotherapy: Going to Therapy Means You're Weak).

Making a Change Requires Taking Action: Psychotherapy Can Help

Making a Change Can Be Challenging
There's no doubt that making a change can be difficult, especially if it's a significant change from what you've always done in the past.

People usually experience some ambivalence, even for changes that they really want to make, and this ambivalence can play out in your psychotherapy (see my article: Starting Psychotherapy: It's Not Unusual to Feel Anxious or Ambivalent).

Making a Commitment and a Plan to Change Usually Helps
Having a strong commitment to change can be helpful to overcome your ambivalence.

As opposed to having some vague idea of what to accomplish, having a plan can help you to start taking steps.  This plan doesn't have to be carved in stone.  It can be flexible enough to change with your developing sense of self, what you want, and your circumstances.  But you want to have the sense of moving forward rather than stagnating.

Overcoming Unconscious Saboteurs Within You
Progress, especially personal progress, is rarely linear.  Usually, along the way, you take two steps forward and one step backwards.

When you're ambivalent, it can be very helpful to give each part of yourself that has different feelings a "voice" to express the ambivalence--whether you do this with your psychotherapist using Ego States therapy or you do it on your own at home by writing (see my article: Having a Dialogue in Writing With the Different Parts of Yourself).

There might be unconscious parts of yourself that are sabotaging your progress.  For instance, there might be a part of you that feels, "You don't deserve to change" or "You don't deserve to have anything good in your life."

These unconscious parts can act as internal saboteurs and get in your way.

Once you've discovered the part or parts of yourself that are holding you back, you can address those parts to find out why they're afraid of making the change.  Then, you can find out from them what they need to feel reassured--whether it involves taking small incremental steps to accomplish your goals or taking care of that part of you, which might be traumatized, in therapy.

This is obviously easier if you're in therapy with a psychotherapist who does Ego States therapy,  some form of parts work therapy or a technique called the Affect Bridge in clinical hypnosis.

Until that unconscious part of you is discovered and addressed, you might keep looping around your goal without understanding what's getting in your way.

Who or What is Holding You Back From Making Changes?  
Aside from your ambivalence or unconscious internal saboteurs, another problem that could be holding you back is if you're working with a psychotherapist who believes that making a change, any kind of change, takes a very long time (see my article: Common Myths About Psychotherapy: Therapy Takes a Long Time).

I've heard this idea again and again from many psychotherapists, especially psychotherapists who tend to work in an outmoded way, spend their time among other psychotherapists who have the same traditional beliefs, and who haven't updated their skills.

This is how they were trained a long time ago, and this is what they continue to believe despite the many changes that have been made in the mental health field (see my article: A Psychotherapist's Beliefs About Psychotherapy Affect How Your Psychotherapist Works With You).

While it's certainly true that change is a process and some changes can take a long time, when a psychotherapist believes that all changes take a very long time, that's how this psychotherapist will approach your problems.  Then, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

In some cases, it might be true that it's too soon, especially if the client is emotionally fragile and wants to take action that would be emotionally harmful to him or her.  In those cases, the psychotherapist is being a responsible mental health professional.

If you're honest with yourself, you can determine whether you're holding yourself back or if you're in a therapy where you're being held back.  If it's the former, as I mentioned before, it's important to discover what's going on in your inner world that's holding you back whether you do this on your own or with your psychotherapist.  If it's the latter, you might need to find a new psychotherapist, especially if you've been going around in circles for a long time.

Sometimes, it's a combination of the former and the latter--there's an unconscious collusion between the client and the psychotherapist where both of them are unaware that they're getting in the way of the client making changes.

Getting Help in Therapy
When you go for a consultation with a psychotherapist, ask the therapist what his or her philosophy is about psychotherapy and change.

This is not about asking "How long will it take for me to change?" because no one can predict that.  Rather, it's about asking the therapist about his or her general philosophy about therapy and making changes (see my article: The Benefits of Psychotherapy).

If you've been trying unsuccessfully on your own to make changes in your life, you could benefit from working with a contemporary psychotherapist who works in a dynamic, interactive way, as opposed to a psychotherapist who believes that all change takes a very long time (see my article: How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

By being proactive with regard to finding the psychotherapist who is right for you and making the changes that you want to make, you can make greater progress in your therapy and in your life.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy).

I work with individual adults and couples in a contemporary and dynamic interactive way.

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

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.