In 2010 I wrote a thesis on self-determination and Client agency. Up front I quoted research (Bergin&Lambert, 1978) that suggests a 43 percent “spontaneous recovery” for people without any help from a therapist. So what’s the point in therapy, if there is a good possibility that that you are going to work things out on your own anyway.
The problem with that of course is it ignores what “spontaneous recovery” means for a person or couple who do not seek any help. That’s another research project.
There are good reasons for attending counselling that most people don’t think about when they are struggling in a relationship. But before we look at those reasons, lets consider what prevents people from coming to therapy in the first place. I am going look at some reasons based my own experience of therapy and the Clients I have worked with over the last 10 years. (Yes, therapist go to therapy and probably not frequently enough or long enough, but that’s a story for another day.)
Therapy is more often put on hold due to fear, and frequently because we tend to minimize what is actually happening in our relationship. Initial thoughts probably concern commitments like work, not enough time, what others might think of us if they found out, a sense of failure in life, and how to afford the cost of therapy on top of our current expenses. But deep down something more profound inhibits our ability to act. Despite our society becoming more accepting of mental health issues, it’s not the same when we ourselves are confronted with an issue that isn’t just physical, but is emotional or psychological. We can easily become fearful of being judged or shamed of the behaviors and feelings we have acted on during our time of distress. We think back and feel “God I could never say that or reveal that to anyone”. We believe that because we can never justify them we will never be able to discuss our difficulty without first being judged or shamed.
Being in therapy is not about justifying yourself, your actions or your feelings. In fact it’s about the opposite. It’s about feeling secure enough to talk about them and finding ways to acknowledge them. It’s about believing that you are ok and that there are ways to make a better life for yourself, your partner and your family. It’s about finding the belief and courage to know that things will work out.