I was recently talking to new a client who wanted nothing more than to feel happier again. She had been to counselor after counselor throughout her adult life, not really feeling helped in the way she hoped to, and so a few weeks ago she started looking for something different. She saw my website, saw that I was gay-friendly, and that I did a kind of therapy called Solution-Focused Therapy, (something she hadn’t experienced before) and so she called me to set up an appointment.
When she came in the following week, she told me that her previous therapists were unintentionally making her feel worse. She mentioned that they seemed smart and well meaning, but that the sessions were just not as helpful to her as she hoped they would be. She would go into the session with them feeling hopeful about change, and subsequently spend an hour being asked to explain and amplify descriptions about her depressed mood and the anxiety she felt about things throughout the previous week. She noticed that after an hour of these difficult conversations, she would leave those sessions feeling sad and anxious all over again.
Our session took a different route, and when she left our conversation she was smiling, and seemingly excited for the week ahead.
What did I do differently?
I simply asked her to describe a day filled with her best hopes being realized, and we spent most of that hour talking about a future where she was feeling happier, calmer and more able to be her best self at home, work and in social situations. And the last thing I did was to warn her that the next time we met, the very first question I am going to ask her is “What’s been better?” Thus preparing her to notice the instances of happy, calm, smiling, socialization, and other positive things that she is sure to encounter in the coming days.
This woman, and others like her, are the reason I do this type of therapy. There are a hundred thousand brilliant therapists in this world that help by talking about problems, but that avenue never made much sense to me in the way that this Solution-Focused approach did.
So my little thought challenge for you guys tonight is this:
If you think about anxiety a lot, instead of that, imagine a day where you feel totally calm and confident, if you think a lot about sadness, imagine instead, an entire day where you feel happy and carefree, and think in detail about how feeling those positive things would make a difference in your day at home, work, school, & wherever else your life happens. And then notice the feelings you come out of that detailed image with…
As usual, email me or comment below with any questions or thoughts this brings up.
Feeling more hopeful all the time,
Rebekka Ouer, LCSW