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Reluctant Passengers vs. Active Consumers of Therapy

As more than one client has said to me this week, "there's a lot going on in the world." Often, we internalize our collective progress through the pandemic, our divided political climate, and even the workplace environment, as a reflection of our own mood or mental state. We take it all in, we feel bad, then if it takes the energy out of us and we struggle to fight back, we feel even worse. To unpack this vicious cycle, I am known to ask my clients, "What are you doing just for yourself this week?"

This is known as accountability therapy. It puts the ball back in your court and empowers you to make small changes, no matter how difficult it may seem. Therapists refer to clients who are really engaged in their own treatment process as active consumers.

Or, as Columbia University psychotherapist Matt Lundquist puts it, a producer of your therapy: "Being a producer in your therapy is a great way to develop as the producer of your life both in therapy and everywhere. You’ll get practice at it, have the chance to deal with the obstacles and resistance that come up along the way, develop skills at producing alongside an expert."

It can't be overstated how much impact this has on the success of therapeutic interventions. Those clients (who come to a session with an idea in mind already that they'd like to discuss, who think about therapy outside of the session hour) are usually observed making more progress, and quicker.

Depending on your financial situation, your family structure, and your other commitments, our previously mentioned "What are you doing for yourself this week?" can be a tough question. But the biggest challenge combating clients' Me Time is simply an unwillingness to prioritize it. Instead of sending yourself the message, "You're last on the list, I'll get to you if I get everything else done," why not tell yourself, "I'll take care of you first, because I love you. And then you'll help me get through these other engagements with a clearer head. Deal?"

Try to think about that this week as you manage your Slack channels, set boundaries with demanding friends, even meal prep for the holiday weekend. What small change can you make to protect your own growth and healing?

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