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Man behind desk (c) Lynda BernhardtWhen I started having flashbacks, I was determined not to get a therapist. It is a long story why, but the important point is that I was determined to go through the healing process by myself. I figured that I could work through the Survivor to Thriver Manual and do just fine. I was wrong.

The healing process was far too grueling for me to go through it alone. Even more importantly, I had nobody telling me that I was going to be okay or reassuring me that what I was feeling was normal. I found myself having a full-fledged panic attack, lying on the floor, banging my head, and trying to decide the best way to commit suicide. I finally concluded that anything, even therapy, was better than this.

What I found in therapy was an ally and a professional validating that I was not crazy. I pretty much assumed that I was crazy throughout my life. When you have a mentally ill mother and are surrounded by “crazy” stuff, it is easy to assume that you are the one with the issues. I told my therapist about all of my “crazy” thoughts and quirks, and he reassured me that I was actually normal — I am a normal survivors of child abuse. All of these “crazy” quirks are really just symptoms left in the aftermath of the abuse.

I do not know what the polar opposite of codependency is called, but that is what I have. I do not want to rely on another person for anything. I feared that entering therapy meant that I would become dependent upon a “shrink.”

I was surprised to learn that the work in therapy actually happens between the sessions. My meetings with my therapist were to talk about what I had been doing with my healing process and what might lie ahead. He would correct any unhealthy notions that I held (such as that I was “crazy” or “stupid”) and reassure me that I was doing a phenomenol job in healing myself.

I used to get frustrated because I would sometimes look forward to a therapy session so my therapist could provide me with the magic way out. I would tell him how miserable I was and how awful things were going. He would point out all of the healing work that I was doing and how much progress I was maknig and then tell me how proud he was of my ability to heal myself. I wanted him to wave a magic wand and make the bad stuff go away. He provided me with the map and checkpoints to heal myself.

I am always wary when I hear about therapists who recommend multiple sessions each week for years on end, telling their patients only to focus on their healing in the presence of the therapist. My therapist empowered me to heal myself.

My therapist also encouraged me to cut down on the frequency of sessions as I moved through the healing process. He wanted me to move toward flying on my own, not staying dependent upon him to carry me.

The point of therapy is to provide you with a professional reassurance that you are on the right track. A good therapist will encourage you to heal yourself and will be your strongest ally along your healing journey.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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