My first therapist was awful. She actually did more talking than I did and she did a great deal of leading, which I found out later is a major no-no in the therapy world. Their job isn’t to lead or feed your already instilled biases but to help you discover and draw your own conclusions about your life. So, if you have a therapist that says things such as, “your parents are truly mean, you have every right to be mad at them. I would be furious if I was you.” RUN, find a new therapist. They are keeping a cycle alive that isn’t going to help you recover.

Therapy should start with, “What would you like to discuss today?” or “What is on your mind?” Once you start talking your therapist might interject with, “…and…When did this event happen?” or “When was the first time you recognized this pattern or issue? They may occasionally ask, “How did this/that make you feel?”  and eventually, “Why do you think you feel this way?” They want you to see the patterns and draw your own conclusions, make a decision and then find a way to act in a healthy and stable manner (the corresponding prompt asked is, “Where do you see this going?” or “How might this play out?” Remember that smaller than normal prefrontal cortex…they are helping you make it stronger, which in turn is going to help you be more decisive and better at solving your own problems.

This process is also helping you to identify your triggers. Triggers are aspects in the environment that set us off in a episode (manic – depressive). It could be as simple as a sound, or as complex as your circadian rhythms being off because of travel, illness, or anxiety induced insomnia over an upcoming job interview. Triggers cause stress and are the catalyst that creates the imbalance in our brain. That imbalance is going to prompt an emotional roller-coaster ride that will be anything but fun.

The point of individual therapy isn’t necessarily to get you talking about your problems but to get you to listen to what you are saying about them.

Group Therapy works essentially the same way but also acts as an extended support group. There is a commonality that is shared by the group, which helps you feel less alone and safe to open up and share. The other benefit of group therapy is that you are surrounded by people that are struggling with the same things you are. It isn’t a one size fits all disorder so a group presents a wide range of other possible options to pursue.

If it hadn’t been for group therapy I don’t think I would have realized my first therapist was doing more harm than good. Group also helped me understand I do have a voice and if a medication isn’t working I need to tell my doctor, they may have a preference for it but I am the one that has to take it. They were also instrumental in helping with information on self-care/mindfulness pursuits such as art classes, music therapy, meditation centers and exercise classes that are considered “safe” in the community. Safe meaning there won’t be alcoholic beverages and it is generally low on triggers/stressors.

photo: Flight. Ruse, Bulgaria; taken with Nikon DSLR 5300 by Pamela

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