From Both Sides of the Couch

A therapist reflects on her time with patients, and her time as a patient.

The Questions are More Important Than the Answers

Creating our own questions is a sign that we are on a path to wisdom.

I’ve come to realize that in therapy it’s not always the questions that your therapist asks you that provoke the greatest realizations. Therapy is only 45 minutes out of a 24 hour day, out of a 7 day week. I’ve had an incredible amount of time to ponder what transpired during those 45 minutes and stretch it, bend it, and twist it around, considering it from all angles. I’ve had the opportunity to be innovative and creative in querying myself and through self-examination and reading the work of others I’ve come up with a list of questions that are crucial to my emotional and physical health.

These are in no particular order except for the first one which is the most important*

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1) How can I keep myself alive and safe?

2) What is my body telling me?

3) Where have I been, and am I wrong?

4) Are my thoughts and actions hurting or healing myself and/or others?

5) Why do I care so much about what others think of me?

6) Is it possible to work less and achieve more?

7) When should I break the rules?

8) How do I want the world to be different because I lived in it?

9) How do I want to be different because I lived in the world?

10) Is what I expect from myself reasonable?

 

*These questions are inspired by: “Martha Beck: 20 Questions That Will Change Your Life”

 

Some of these questions are more straightforward; others require a second reading and further thought. For example:

1) I can’t guarantee that I can keep myself alive and safe because life can be uncertain. I can take care of myself, avoid situations that will put me at risk, but continue to do what makes me passionate. I didn’t care whether I lived or died for too long. Today life is precious.

 

 

I hope I have gotten to the point with my patients in our work together that they don’t turn off the work we do when they leave my office. Giving them relevant assignments to complete during the week between sessions helps them to continue to contemplate the content of the session.

I appreciate it when my patients come into session and say “I’ve been thinking about what we talked about last week.” We proceed to explore and discuss what had been on their mind, sometimes for the entire session.

When patients start developing their own questions based on our work, even projecting into the future, it’s as though they hit the lottery. Sometimes they may not even realize what they have accomplished until I point it out to them.

The goal of therapy is for patients to eventually leave the therapeutic office with skills and a confidence they did not possess before. I always tell my patients that I will not be the one to determine when it is time for them to leave; they can continue as long as they keep coming. There will always be speed bumps on the road of life whether you’re in therapy or not. But having been in therapy, one can negotiate those speed bumps with more acuity than before.

Questions and answers continue to evolve as life progresses. That’s a good thing. Life isn’t static and by accepting and embracing change we place ourselves on the road to self-awareness.

What are your questions?

 

Gerri Luce is a licensed clinical social worker who publishes under a pseudonym.

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