In real life, therapy is much different than it is portrayed in the media. Therapy scenes in TV and movies are overly dramatic: the patients are constantly making “breakthroughs,” someone is always crying or screaming, and, generally, therapists are much more directive than they are in real life.
Unfortunately, I carried some media-based perceptions of therapy with me when I began doing therapy during my first year at MSPP. More than anything else, I expected progress to be constant and dramatic; this is simply not the reality. In real life, patients decompensate, or take two steps forward and one step back, or are completely derailed by some type of difficult external circumstance. Patients often do make progress, but in general, it’s incremental and takes a long time. Of course, I believe that therapy is effective, but sometimes it can feel slow.
With all that said, I am happy to report that of the five patiens who I saw today, three made dramatic and notable progress. Due to confidentiality, I can’t share many details of this progress, but here are some very vague descriptions: an adolescent patient decided (after much hesitation) to go to college, an unemployed patient took major steps towards a stable career, and a married couple has begun to improve their sexual problems (after decades of a mutually unsatisfying sex life).
This is by no means a typical day at the office, and it’s nice for me to take a moment to celebrate. A lot of the time, I feel pretty drained at the end of a day of therapy, but today I feel great. Whenever my sessions go well, I celebrate by listening to Kanye West’s enthusiastically happy remix of “Young Folks,” so now it’s time to get in the car and blast it all the way home!