Written by therapist Clair Miller
Therapy as healing
One of the best parts of this job is hearing people’s stories. I love stories in general, but I especially love hearing someone’s “story” as a whole – their narrative and the way they make sense of the life they’ve lived and who they are today. As I sit with clients, I feel the weight of the privilege that it is to be invited into their world, to hear about their experiences through their eyes. And I am consistently amazed by people who choose to step into the room and fight for some kind of healing. Some people know exactly what it is that they want to heal; they can point right to the issue and we work our way through it. Others have no idea what needs healing, but they know that something does, and we explore that sense together. For some, it’s a little bit of both. For me, these experiences are always striking and humbling, a strong reminder of people’s resilience and courage.
Healing in unhealthy environments
There are plenty of things in a day that impress, encourage or challenge me, particularly in my work with clients. Recently, what I have been reflecting on is the complicated work of seeking healing from inside a hurting, dysfunctional or harmful family. Most of us can look back on our families of origin and see some good and some bad. Every family system has its challenges and its dysfunction, and for many, those relationship dynamics can change and evolve as the people do. Kids become adults, and the family adapts to figure out how to engage with each other, hopefully in new and healthier ways.
But sometimes, the evolving doesn’t happen as a system. One person may seek healing before the rest, and that can be a lonely experience. As a therapist, I always emphasize the importance of social support, and it always feels heavy when we realize we are doing this work and stepping into this growth without that base. Of course, we can fight to find support elsewhere, to choose friends and family that are encouraging and willing to engage and grow with us – but even that is a big ask and can be tiring.
When it feels lonely
I wanted to write this post to acknowledge that work that so many are doing without the support they want or need. Therapy is extremely hard work, even if you have a strong supportive network of friends or family members. When you don’t, or when those friends or family members are stuck in the very patterns or cycles that you are working to heal from, the work of therapy can be so much more challenging and draining. It is hard to start making healthy decisions and setting boundaries when you are faced with the habitual unhealthy ones as soon as you leave the office. It is hard. It can be isolating.
So if you are seeking counseling or pursuing growth while those around you are not, I want to encourage you in the work you’re doing. It is such a brave choice every time, and takes so much strength. We see you, and you’re not alone. If you find yourself struggling with a lack of social support, or wanting to seek healing that feels new, don’t hesitate to call a therapist. We would love to work through the process with you.