Therapy is hard work.
But often it’s the therapist who feels it most. It’s the therapist who anguishes in supervision over whether they’re doing the right thing, saying the right thing, responding in the right way. They doubt themselves, yearn for progress, hurt with the suffering of their client.
As the client, we look to therapy as the answer. We need something to solve this suffering. Surely therapy is it? We go, we sit, we talk. And nothing changes.
Is this the right therapy for us? Is it the right therapist? Do they know what they’re doing? Why aren’t we getting any better?
But trauma recovery is sometimes like weight loss. We want to lose weight; we may even need to lose weight. We like the idea of what we will look like, feel like, when we’ve lost weight. So we go to therapy, and we see the therapy as the diet.
But the therapy isn’t the diet. The therapy is just the encouragement and the support to change what we eat.
And the therapist can’t do it for us. They can advise us on low-calorie foods. They can help us set meal plans, explore why we overeat. They can suggest new menus, identify triggers for over-eating, educate us on different food groups.
But they can’t lose the weight for us.
It’s still up to us to eat less. It’s still up to us to do the work.
And the same is true for trauma therapy. The therapist can’t solve it for us. The therapist can’t take the pain away. The therapist can’t make us feel loved and cherished in a way that rewrites our childhood.
The therapist can only be with us on the journey. They can cheer from the sidelines, challenge us, confront us, reassure us, encourage us. But they can’t recover for us.
If we want to recover from abuse, we have to stop abusing ourselves. We won’t recover if we just insist that the therapist makes us feel loved to the same degree that we felt abused. We have to learn to love ourselves. The therapist is a guide and a mentor, but their empathy does not negate the calories in a doughnut. It’s up to us to choose what to feed ourselves.
We have to do the work.