The chorus from a 2005 hit song by Coldplay goes like this: ” Lights will guide you home, and ignite your bones. And I will try to fix you “. A cry from the heart of anyone who has ever tried to help someone to overcome their problems.
It’s so common for people to come into therapy hoping to be fixed. The problems you have been struggling with feel powerful and overwhelming and you are convinced they are too much for you, only a professional has the skills and knowledge to vanquish them. You just need to show up in the therapy room, explain the problems and then wait for the therapist to do whatever magic they do. Does that sound at all familiar?
If only it was that easy! But there is a lot wrong with this picture.
Firstly, therapists are not Superman or Wonderwoman, they do not have magical powers. They are ordinary human beings just like you. They have trained and studied and developed self-awareness to an unusually high degree, they have knowledge and skills and insight, but they usually don’t have a magic wand.
Secondly, although admittedly some therapy approaches do give the impression that it’s all about treatment that will fix a specific problem, many therapists (including myself) do not think of it in that way. They think of it more as providing the environment in which problems can be explored, identified, grappled with and sometimes overcome, sometimes accepted, sometimes moved beyond, in the partnership between the therapist and the client. They think of it as a process with an outcome that no one can predict, not a cure-all with guaranteed results.
Thirdly, the therapy approach within which I work maintains as one of its foundational principles, that you the client are the only ‘expert’ on yourself. The therapist has expertise, but is not the expert when it comes to your unique, complicated, mysterious life. How could anyone – not having lived your life – confidently claim that they know what you should do about your problems?
So come to therapy not expecting to be ‘fixed’, but to enter into a unique 1:1 alliance that gives you the space and time to fully express yourself, to face up to whatever it is that is derailing your life currently, and to gain a fresh perspective, a deeper awareness, and an appreciation of the resources you already have within you to tackle your problems. Therapy has a lot to offer, that in the end is far more valuable than the promise to ‘fix’ you.