Unless you’ve been to therapy, you probably don’t know how it works. Do you really lie on a couch and talk about your problems the whole time? Does the therapist just listen? Do they offer advice? Will they judge you? What kinds of questions do they ask? What really happens in a session?
Because therapy is confidential, it “creates an aura of mystery,” said Ryan Howes, Ph.D, a psychologist in Pasadena, Calif. And many of us fear the unknown, so we avoid it, he said.
The information we do get about therapy often just adds to our confusion (and avoidance). Howes gets frustrated with professional organizations and educators who try to teach consumers about therapy by focusing on “the minutiae of diagnoses and therapeutic modalities.” He gets frustrated with jargon-filled articles written by therapists who assume their audience consists of other therapists.
“These just further alienate a public who are hungry for help but don’t have time to get a masters in psychology in order to understand how to get that help,” he said.
Such articles, talks and presentations also don’t convey the sheer power of therapy, the transformation that happens inside (and outside) of session.
This is where stories come in. Rudyard Kipling said, “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Something similar is true for therapy: If therapy were taught in stories, individuals would understand it better and appreciate its benefits.
“If we did a better job of portraying what therapy actually is, I think a lot more people would try it,” Howes said. He, along with his colleagues, decided to do just that: teach therapy in the form of stories. In February 2015 they hosted an event called “Moments of Meaning.” Six therapists took the stage, sharing true stories from their own therapy practices. (The stories were distorted to maintain confidentiality.)
“Therapists listen to and participate in stories every day, and clients come to tell and re-write their story, so I thought this would be the perfect medium,” Howes said. They also wanted to convey the humanness of therapy and how profound the interaction between client and clinician can be, he said.
You can view the six videos here. In each story, you’ll find vulnerability and transparency. You’ll see how therapists and clients interact. You’ll see how therapists make connections in a person’s story, between their past and current perspectives and actions. You’ll be privy to therapists’ own thought processes as they try to help their clients heal. You’ll see how transformation is made.
In other words, these stories offer a rare and poignant glimpse into therapy, along with insights into our own thoughts and behaviors.