What to Expect in a Healing Journey
I’m writing this to the one who has held onto the edge for so long but is afraid to take the first step. To the one who wants to see change but is afraid to hope for the possibility of its reality.
It can be a scary thing to begin to think of healing from pain, trauma, and its many effects. If you or someone you love have been living with the effects of pain, trauma, and/or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and are contemplating beginning therapy to work through your experiences but are still unsure of what to expect, in this article I’ll share a couple of questions I encounter regularly about therapy.
- Will therapy trigger or re-injure traumatic memories?
Trauma informed care in therapy is not like what Hollywood may have depicted for us over the years. Trauma focused therapy work is a partnership with the client and therapist to establish safety and trust. The therapist’s job is not to drag you the client into memory or relive experiences over and over again. The work of healing from trauma is through steady, clear communication of need and emotion. Together, at your pace of safety, this provides little healing moments where there was previous injury to the most vulnerable parts of human experience, memory, and self-worth. Working together, listening to your needs and experiences, your therapist and you focus on identifying patterns of thinking and whatever means of self-protection that helped you to “survive” during times of pain and trauma and make sense of what happened. Your decision to pursue healing took huge courage and counseling itself is designed to support and grow that courage to take healthy steps for yourself by respecting your experience and your voice itself.
- How long will this take?
I am often asked this question and in honesty I do not have a one-size-fits-all answer for you.
Different experiences of hurt and trauma and the ways that people survive that hurt need unique care and are worthy of time and respect in their healing process. No one is completely alike in their experience of a healing journey.
A human bone takes about 12 weeks to set and heal after a “clean break”; fractured bones take longer simply because there are more pieces to set and re-grow into healthy bone. A doctor would offer the support necessary to a crushed or shattered piece of bone with a hard cast and after that a soft brace to assist the muscles as they begin to re-engage and strengthen after so long without use. Then they engage in physical therapy to support that healthy muscle growth to its full potential.
It is no less important that trauma, emotions and the protective actions we have had to use to adapt to survive the shattering experiences of pain also need time and support to heal. God has designed your body to heal, it’s wired in you to do so. Working with your therapist, you will learn to listen to and engage in that healing process with your body, emotions and thoughts.
Some areas you can expect to learn to give and receive care for yourself in this process are:
- Responses to your environment, anxiety and stress
- Thought patterns, positive and negative
- Realistic self-care
- Healthy ways of handling and healing memory flashbacks
- Emotions as a source of information
- Freedom of choice, healthy boundaries for a lifetime
- Forgiveness and trust with safe others
- When do I stop therapy?
Working with a therapist in these areas you may choose to take parts of the work at a time, like mile markers on the road. I find that some clients find it helpful at times to work through parts of the healing journey and then take some time to “live in the work” they have done. This can provide support in identifying and celebrating the work of healing that has been accomplished in the therapy partnership and also helps to clarify the areas of growth and healing that they would like to work on next if and when they are ready to begin again on another part of their journey. Others find it helpful to continue their therapy work at different intervals of time as they continue their healing journey; the spacing of the process is unique to your needs. Therapy can help to provide the intentional space and support to process, heal, strengthen and grow into new patterns of care, thoughts and healthy relationship patterns for you and for others in your life.
Beginner’s Tip – Interview a therapist before beginning your in-depth work with them.
Therapists can provide a time for you to get to know them before beginning therapy and to see if it feels like a good fit for you, if you are comfortable with their style and personality. You get to choose who you work with, this is for you, not them. It’s ok to ask questions.
Here’s a couple of ideas for you to get to know their approach to therapy:
- I don’t know where to begin or what to expect, can you tell me what a session is like?
- What do we do if I get nervous in a session?
- Is there homework?
It takes a lot of courage to take a step toward healing in your life, even reading this article tells me you are taking that first brave step toward healing. Be encouraged – This is for you, there is no “shot-clock” or timer counting down to when you “should be done” with healing. Your healing process is unique to you and your needs.
Different seasons in life can bring different areas of need in healing and growth to the surface. Finding expert supporters to partner with you in seasons of your journey, from therapists to small groups, to pastoral care, can help you in each unique step of the way to a hope-filled, thriving life. You are worth the time and the investment.
Much peace to you,
Want to know more about symptoms of anxiety or trauma? Check out our other articles here for more insight “Anxiety And Trauma: PTSD”.
And click here for other Safety Networks and Tools for some immediate needs.