top of page

The Art of Therapy: Getting Back to Basics (Is it supposed to be this simple??)

Written By Ashley Gray, LCSW, MFTC

"Isn't therapy just talking?" "Can't I just talk to my friends?" "I just started therapy and a lot of this feels like stuff I already know."

Every once in awhile, I hear people say things that suggest that therapy feels too simple. Generally, they are talking about things like letting themselves feel their emotions, making more time to be outdoors, certain communication techniques. Things like that. They often feel like some of the information they are learning are things that they have heard before, but they haven't done in awhile. Or things that seem too simple. I always encourage people to ask themselves why it feels "too" simple. Did you have the expectation that therapy would be really complicated or be full of "gotchas" (think Rorschach)? Where did those beliefs come from?

I think that many times we know the simple truths that we learn in therapy and it is the busyness of life that gets in the way. The expectation that we need to always be working, producing, ignoring our emotions in order to be more focused and productive. Society is often asking us to abandon ourselves and our needs in order to live up to a standard that we did not choose ourselves. This can lead to over working, people pleasing, self-medicating, bottling emotions and other self-abandoning behaviors. We then find ourselves feeling anxious, depressed, and disconnected from ourselves. Then, we go to therapy and learn to connect with ourselves again and learn to balance two parts of ourselves: the working/performing-self and the just-being-self. The working/performing-self is who we are at work and in society when we sometimes abandon our true selves to live up to unrealistic standards. The just-being-self is the part of you where you learn to listen to your body, emotions, take deep breaths and connect with your community and loved ones. It can feel like getting back to basics. If this work feels silly, dumb, like you missed something or like you should already know this, don't worry, that's normal. It does take work to get in touch with yourself. Because really the system is designed to separate you from this version of yourself, but you deserve to return to it.

How to Return to Basics

Quick tips on how to get back to basics? Listen to your body, notice your emotions, pay attention to your thoughts, notice how you think and talk about others, take deep breaths, spend time in nature, let yourself cry when you need to, take breaks be aware of your values and life philosophies and how they impact you, practice positive affirmations, and so on and so forth. This list could be endless. And when you really dive into this list, the concept might be easy, but excavating these concepts out of the piles of social constructs that society forces upon are often the heavy lifting of therapy. My point is, that many times we are indeed returning to more simple concepts and uncomplicated behaviors, but it may take some other types of difficult work to get there. This will ebb and flow. Sometimes things will feel unbelievably simple and other times, it may feel difficult to handle how stuck you feel. You may feel this more with some types of therapy over others. For instance, trauma work or couples work may feel more difficult in general because there are other people involved, deeply entrenched messaging, focusing on more painful topics, lots of processing of past events and so forth. This can make things feel less simple at times. However, I would still say that the things that move you through those difficult moments are returning to gentler, more compassionate, more simple ways of doing things.

Why The Help Of A Professional Is Important

Sometimes people ask why they can't just complete this work on their own or talk to their friends. This is a fair question, especially if your conversations with friends or family feel very helpful. There are several benefits of working with a professional, the most important being safety. Therapists are trained in spotting unsafe behaviors and knowing how to intervene in a safe way. They also have extensive education and firsthand experience in the areas where you have concerns. This is also why it is important to be aware of your therapist's specialties, so you can get the best support possible. Because your therapist is not personally acquainted with your family or social circles, they can be unbiased, see blind spots and hold you accountable in a way that people in your life may not be able to.

If you would me to be the professional that supports you through your therapy journey, you can click the contact buttons at the top of this page to reach out. If you would like to learn more about me, check out my homepage.

How To Make It Stick

To feel good after your session ends and make the work last: do your therapy homework. Bring home the work that you do in therapy. Incorporate it in your life through regular habits with yourself and with others. Hold yourself accountable and let people that you trust hold you accountable as well. This prevents you from only feeling good in session and helps get you to a place where you need therapy less often or maybe not at all. It also helps build your self-esteem as you learn that you can do hard things.

In my experience as a therapist, it is indeed the clients that regularly do the homework and apply what they learn in therapy to their own life that meet their goals more quickly. They then are able to go to therapy less often or end therapy entirely. I see it time and time again, so if you're feeling stuck in therapy, be very honest with yourself about whether or not you're actually applying the therapy work to your own life. Only you can do that for yourself, no one else.

Your life journey is a winding road that you are in charge of navigating. Seeking help is always an option, but when it comes down to it, you are the one calling the shots. Sometimes it will feel comforting and rewarding and sometimes you will trudge through difficult work before you can see the change you desire. If you feel overwhelmed at the thought that you are the one navigating this journey, I want to remind you that you have so much wisdom inside of you as the expert on your life. You are more equipped than you know.

I'm wishing you the best on your healing journey! :)

P.S. If you want to sign up for my newsletter, so that you don't miss a blog post and you get the latest information about free resources, services and news follow this link. There will be a pop-up on the page that will prompt you to sign up. If you get the pop-up after you sign up, you can use the yellow "x" in the corner of the page on your desktop or bottom of the page (you may have to scroll) on your phone to exit.

This post is written by individual and couples therapist, Ashley Gray of Arvada, Colorado. Ashley works with her clients using Gottman Method Couples Therapy, EMDR Trauma Therapy, Prepare and Enrich, attachment focused therapy and techniques from Emotionally Focused Therapy, Couples Intensives and EMDR Intensives. As a therapist, she is passionate about helping people build healthy relationships and supporting people with the resources they need. In her free time, Ashley hikes, paddle boards, reads, spends time with her husband and her cuddly dog. For more information about Ashley and her practice, click here.


bottom of page