As crucial as therapy is for many of us, it is also oftentimes intimidating, confusing, irritating and sometimes even scary. For kids in foster care, this can be especially true, given the traumas they’ve endured early in life. These tips below come from a former foster youth who wants to help teenagers better understand their therapy journey and its benefits.
When I was in foster care, I grew to detest therapy. It wouldn’t be until many years later that I saw its value and realized how critical therapy was to my healing. Depending on the issue, therapy can take weeks or many months before you see results. There are all kinds of therapy and you’re better off if you set up short and long-term goals. Here is a good article on this topic. Based on my personal experience with it, below are ways you can tell if your therapist is helping you.
- First, is the chemistry right? It will take a few sessions to know if you like talking to this person and you’ll have an inkling this person may help. Give it three sessions if you’re not sure or don’t hit it off right away. I’ve ended up benefiting from therapists I hated or didn’t like the first time. And if you don’t like the therapist, be honest. Tell him or her that this isn’t working for you. They’ll ask why and they’ll ask you to be specific. Their reaction could change your mind or confirm what you suspected.
- Change is Painful. A way to gauge if therapy is working is when you moved from venting to actually making small changes in your approach or behavior. Therapy isn’t about providing instant relief — that’s what friends do. No, therapy is painful. When you go to the gym and workout, you feel sore afterward. That soreness shows you that muscle is building and it hurts. Well, therapy is like that too. You become stronger when you deal with painful subjects. It’s part of the process of healing and truly overcoming.
- Noticeable Differences. In therapy, you’ll learn new ways of handling life’s challenges. You bounce back quicker to situations that once spiraled you out of control or led you to depression. If anger is your issue, you’ll notice that therapy is working when you’re not as quick to anger, or you don’t hold onto a grudge as much as you used to. You’ll also be to track your depression and not be so quick to believe the negative thoughts that run through your mind.
- Other People Will Tell You. The people around you will notice changes in you. They’ll start making comments that you’re not as self-destructive, self-sabotaging, sensitive, you don’t mind-read, assume the worst, have an all-or-nothing approach or you don’t cry as often or go off. In short, you’re easier to deal with and people will recognize that.
- It’s Not A Chore or Boring. Another way you can tell therapy is working is you look forward to talking to your therapist or during the week, you feel like you can’t wait to talk to your therapist. When you start out, going to therapy can feel like a chore or something you feel like you have to do but don’t really want to. If therapy is working, you’ll look forward to it.
- The End is Near. There will be a time when you will say goodbye. You’ll know when to end sessions when you have run out of things to talk about or you come to a lot of conclusions and solutions on your own. This could only happen if you’ve done a lot of processing and work, which can take years.
Bonus: If you’re not ready for therapy, then do self-care work by reading self-help books, watching YouTube and Ted Talks on the issues you’re dealing with (depression, anger management, etc.). Blogs, books and videos are really no substitute for therapy but it’s a good starting point to self-discovery and self-improvement.
Article first published in Fostering Families Today Magazine.
Georgette Todd is the author of “Foster Girl, A Memoir” and has been featured in newspapers, television, radio and film. She will be starring in a foster care documentary, “Breaking the Cycle,” that will come out in 2019. For more information about her work, you can visit her official website: www.georgettetodd.com