What the heck is “therapy” anyway?

Kelly Sikkema

How does therapy work?

We often hear words and phrases thrown around in the cultural zeitgeist, but we don’t often stop to ask what they actually mean? When we hear a phrase like “self-care”, “mindfulness”, “meditation” or “self-help”, for example, we may have a vague sense of what it is, filled in by references we see in pop culture, on television and movies, or in conversations we overhear, but it’s hard to know what it actually looks like in real life, without actually diving in ourselves. Another one of those words that gets tossed around a lot is “therapy”, but what exactly IS individual therapy? It’s one of those things we hear about all the time, but if we haven’t actually dipped our toe in that pool yet, we may wonder, “how does it work?” “What does it do? What is the purpose of it, and how does it actually help?”

We're here to help answer these questions!

The answer to “what is individual therapy” might differ between clinicians, but the way we see it is that individual therapy is a safe and contained place where you can explore and learn about yourself, with the help of another objective person. You may ask, “but why do I need to learn about myself?” The answer to that is because sometimes there are things going on within ourselves that are at play, that we don’t even realize are having an effect on us, and are getting in our own way. We may unconsciously put blocks up, think about things in certain ways that are limiting, or manifest a certain reality for ourselves that keeps us from living the life we want, or feeling the way we want to feel. These unconscious blocks are beyond our awareness, meaning we don’t even know we are putting them up.

Individual therapy can help you understand all of these processes, both conscious and unconscious, and see how they got there to begin with, and how they may not be serving you now. By simply understanding all that, we can begin to then let go of things and change our reality.

I once had a client who struggled with finding a healthy relationship, and would go back to their toxic ex time and time again, even though they said they wanted something different that was happy and healthy. Rationally they knew they wanted something better, but something else was pulling them back into this unhealthy pattern, and they didn’t understand why. When unpacking all this in individual therapy, my client talked about how growing up they were never fully “seen” and loved unconditionally as a child. They therefore started internalizing messages about themselves that they were “not enough.” That belief about themselves prevailed, even as they grew into an adult, and away from their family of origin. When dating, a part of themselves didn’t fully “believe” they deserved a happy and healthy relationship, because that was never shown to them as a child. As soon as a potential happy relationship was presented to them, my client would do something to sabotage it. They felt more comfortable going back to their toxic and familiar dynamic, which helped reinforce the unconscious belief that they didn’t deserve to be happy.

By understanding all this, my client was slowly able to let go of those misguided beliefs about themselves, understanding where they came from, and how they don’t apply to the here and now. Once they started to fully believe they deserved more, they were able to let a loving partner into their life.

Without individual therapy as a place to unpack and understand all this, my client would never have realized how they were actually contributing to their unhappiness, without even knowing it. Only talking it out with an outside, objective person can help illuminate these things for us.

In addition to understanding unconscious processes, individual therapy can be a place to be fully seen, accepted, and understood, which is especially healing for LGBTQ people who often didn’t get unconditional love and acceptance growing up. A sort of ‘re-parenting’ can happen, allowing a client to heal old wounds and realize they are deserving, loveable, and even badass amazing.

Individual therapy can also be a place to learn.

There are useful tools, lessons, ways of thinking, and even ways of directing the breath and body that can all help change the way we feel. When we understand the connection between our thoughts, feelings, bodies, and behaviors, we gain some power and control over our mind and feeling state. 

At LGBTQ Therapy Space, we pride ourselves in understanding our clients fully, having authentically LGBTQ therapists who fully “get” the experience of being queer. Being allied is important, but actually having a lived experience is another story. We can help our clients navigate various struggles, some which may be related to the trauma of growing up queer in a heterosexist world, and others that may not seem like they are related.

Having the right personality “match” is an important part of therapy. We’re here to provide a shortcut in the process for you, by matching you with someone you are more likely to connect with, so you don’t spend the time going through multiple therapists that aren’t the right fit.

You have the ability feel content, alive, and whole. We hope our take on individual therapy intrigues you enough to give it a try. It truly changes lives, and the world.

If you want to learn even more about therapy, including myths about therapy, how to find low fee therapy, and how it can change our lives, watch my interview with Calan Breckon on the Gay Men Going Deeper podcast below!

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