1. You come for therapy to satisfy someone else’s needs or wishes
Some people attend therapy in order to prove to their family or friends that they have tried everything to address their difficulties. However, this is not necessarily what they would have chosen for themselves. You might catch them clock-watching in the session and showing signs of non-engagement, such as: being late for sessions and not investing time and energy in therapy.
Their family and friends often believe that since they have persuaded them to start therapy, they are going to have positive outcomes. However, this is a myth. You cannot force anyone to make positive changes in life or talk about their personal experiences and difficult feelings, unless they are ready to do so.
2. You want to change others
‘I want my husband to stop gambling’, ‘I want my children to listen more’, ‘I want my colleagues to treat me better’: these are some of the treatment goals of people who attended therapy with me before. It is really important for the therapist to manage people’s expectations and not let them believe that therapy could help them achieve these goals.
What do you think that make these goals unrealistic? It is the fact that we cannot have control over other people and their behaviours! The only area you can control is linked to your own responses to situations. For instance, if I had to re-phrase the above goals to make them realistic, I would say: ‘I want to be more assertive towards my husband who has a gambling addiction’, ‘I want to teach my children to listen by listening to them more and being a good role model for them’, ‘I want to set boundaries towards my colleagues but also try to find out why they treat me this way’.
Do you see how a goal that is related to changing others can actually turn into one about how YOU can manage things differently in your life? Are you ready to take responsibility?
3.You have not accepted the existence of a ‘problem’ or you are happy with how things are for you at the moment
If you are happy with how things are in your life and who you are as a person, then there is no reason to attend therapy. Therapy is there to help you achieve your goals, resolve dilemmas you might struggle with as well as emotional difficulties that might cause you distress. If life is great for you and there is noting you feel concerned about, then chances are that therapy is not for you at this stage in your life.
4. You find that avoiding difficult feelings is the best way forward
Therapy is not an easy journey. It is a process where people are invited to recognise their difficult feelings, engage with them and find ways of managing them more effectively. It is a therapy prerequisite for people to be willing to experience feelings, such as: fear, disappointment, anxiety and regret.
If you find that avoidance works well for you, then therapy would not be the step forward. Psychotherapy does not support avoidance in any shape or form as we believe that it only leads to temporary relief and not long-term answers to your problems.
5. If you want to start feeling better without going out of your comfort zone to make changes
If you have followed an approach for some time and it did not give you an answer to your problem, then continuing with the same approach is not going to give you a different outcome in the future. Therapy is about doing things differently in life. However, there are a lot of people who attend therapy expecting that the therapist can make them feel better without them making a contribution. This is not a realistic expectation. If the therapist does not challenge this belief, chances are that the person is going to feel very disappointed for not getting the outcomes they were hoping for.
Therapy requires getting out of your comfort zone, trying our new responses to life situations and adopting new behaviours. Your therapist does not have a magic wand in the office. Therefore, they won’t be able to help you improve your emotional suffering without your crucial part in therapy. At the end of the day, the aim of therapy is for you to become your own therapist. Depending on somebody else to solve problems for you is not going to be beneficial for long.