Sometimes clients come into psychotherapy because they are facing significant life difficulties. They or their loved ones may be seriously ill, there may be difficulties with family members, an experience if redundancy or a range of other issues that are beyond the client's control.
When life becomes difficult, it is natural to feel a bit helpless. Sometimes that leads us to try and exert control, but if things are genuinely beyond your control, efforts to control them can be counter-productive and even do more harm than good. If many efforts to make a difference have unsuccessfully been made, hopelessness can sometimes set in, compounding distress.
There are no easy answers when life gets tough. A psychotherapist can not make it OK, nor will attempting to minimise the impact on a client or distract them help. So what can be done?
Oftentimes the therapeutic work in these circumstances is to explore the way a client is experiencing what is happening, and the meaning they are making of it. Each of us responds differently to life events depending on our history and life experiences, character, beliefs, values, and many other factors. What to one person may be deeply traumatizing, to another may not be particularly significant. This in no way invalidates experiences of distress, we are unique, and our experience matters.
It is important to know then that we are not stuck with one way of experiencing things. We may have patterns and preferences that repeat over time, but with time and work these can evolve, if we wish them to. When what is happening to you is dominating your experience, it may well be possible to find ways both to access inner strengths and capabilities, and to create new possibilities for the way you engage with events and people.
Sometimes finding acceptance and peace with what can't be changed is fruitful, othertimes deep reflection on your own patterns and how they are playing out in your life can be beneficial to change the nature of your relationship with yourself, and with others.
Working in a solutions-focused way to explore what is happening now, what you want to have happen, and ways to create more possibilities for yourself can be energizing and impactful. Like anything, one size does not fit all, the art of psychotherapy lies in helping you find the right approach for you.
When life gets tough, you need not give up, nor need you be alone. Change is always possible, it just might not be in ways you expect. For help thriving, whatever your life circumstances, get in touch.
To sign up for a monthly digest of mental health self-help material, go to www.ferobinsonpsychotherapy.co.uk/get-in-touch