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Why I Endorse Therapy: My Personal Attestation to the Therapeutic Process

 

By Samantha Silverman, owner of Silver Linings Counseling

 

 

 

Personally, I have endured years of individual therapy dating back to my young childhood in the aftermath of my parent’s divorce. 

 

Although only six years old at the time, my then-therapist provided a safe, secure space amidst heaps of various board games and stuffed animals.  During our weekly Candy Land and Uno battles, I was gently pressed into expressing my emotions as they related to my family: my parent’s separation and my brother’s sudden illness.   Although I lacked adequate insight at six years old to fully understand the depth of these two events, I trusted my therapist.  She never expected me to talk, but always provided the security I needed.  Patient and unassuming, she became weekly stability in which I was the centralized focus of my life-not the parentalized-child I was at home.

 

Unbeknownst to me at the time, my mother had provided me with a rare gift: the present of a neutral, objective observer who accepted me as is.  Although, I had many therapists after my first, I never forgot her full name, the colorful childlike ambiance of her office, or how at ease I felt in session.

 

Throughout the years, I had legions of other therapists: not all were ideal.  My first experience in family therapy ended abruptly and poorly when I tried to involve my Narcissistic father.   The therapist was young, inexperienced, and naive.  She allowed my charming-lawyer father to dictate the entire session, nodding her head vigorously while he verbalized all of the traits that made him an ideal father.  I felt unvalidated, unheard, and minimized the entire session.  It wasn’t until the last five minutes that I vehemently spat out he was lying.  All three of us ended the session in sheer frustration, anger and tears.  Needless to say, that was my first and last session with my father. 

 

In college, I had an incredible male therapist who was able to provide a different lens that I needed in a male mentor.  He effortlessly linked my relationship with my father to that of other male influences in my life.  He also encouraged me to at least pursue a Minors degree in Psychology, in which my parents were fully discouraging (due to low paying jobs upon graduation).   Between his revelations and pursuing a Minor’s in Psychology, I finally began the process of developing insight.

 

The time of my life in which was the most harrowing was after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  Living in NYC at the time and working in World Trade Center Seven, I first-handedly witnessed the attacks.  In the aftermath, I experienced severe PTSD, survivors guilt, anxiety, insomnia, and hypervigilant behavior.  I also developed hearing loss and a chronic health condition. 

 

I once again turned to the Mental Health profession for my own personal salvation.  I was unhinged, in crisis, and unstable.  Although I do not recommend starting long term counseling in a state of acute crisis, there are times when a crisis stabilization unit can be a lifesaver. 

 

I was fortunate to be accepted into the World Trade Center Health program, in which they provided reimbursable mental health benefits to victims of the WTC attacks.  I assembled a mental health army: a hypnotherapist, a Sleep Clinic, group therapy for terrorist attack survivors, and individual therapy to address my PTSD. 

 

The more insight I acquired, the more I was able to develop healthy coping mechanisms.  I righted my maladaptive habits (ie. partying to dull my feelings, consuming copious amounts of sugar to stay alert) and gained healthy coping skills (ie. exercising and walking daily, creating a healthy meal plan, having an exact sleep/wake schedule). 

 

The most INCREDIBLE asset was the gift of obtaining insight and acquiring emotional intelligence.  Having neutral observers listen to me, rephrase, and reframe my statements unlocked a gradual shift in my identity.  Working in marketing at the time (again my parents poo-poo’ed my dream of wanting to be a therapist), I made the decision to switch careers and pursue a Master’s degree in Clinical Social Work. 

 

In learning to treat other mental health disorders, I continued to learn how to work on myself.  I do not attribute my personal growth to one therapist in particular, but to multiple therapists who all provided me with various nuggets of wisdom over the years. 

 

I do not pretend to be perfect or have all the answers: I am humanly flawed and will always have an aura of East Coast neuroticism (which actually is a desirable personality trait!).  However, I believe in the power of human growth and resilience: which is achievable through acquired learning, insight, and the motivation and capacity for change.  Change needs to be a long-term commitment rather than a short-term goal. 

 

It’s disheartening when I hear people say “therapy doesn’t work”.  I find that they were either not a good fit to their assigned therapist, did not give themselves the time to fully immerse in the process, or are in denial that they need to take responsibility for implementing their therapeutic goals.  Whereas other facets in life can be metrically measured, therapy is rationally or emotively measured.  And we may not notice an immediate difference in real time but rather in the accumulation of time and practice.

 

When I opened Silver Linings Counseling in 2017, I aimed to be a conduit of change to my clients.  Now, as we near the close of 2022 and with a staff of nine therapists, it is my hope and passion that we have extended our reach to become united agents of change and transformation.  While not every therapist is a good fit for every client and vice versa, we strive to make successful matches.  Whether you are one of our clients or seek therapy elsewhere, I urge you to not give up on the therapeutic process.  Request a different therapist or give yourself some space to process but please be open to the tenets of change: Change can be the most profound and powerful lifelong gift if you allow yourself to receive.