This is Therapy: Renovating the House

November 07, 2018


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I was talking to my brother the other day and we were discussing counseling. I was attempting to explain to him what I actually do on a large scale as a psychotherapist. Randomly, I thought of an analogy that captures it.

For context, my brother is a brilliant man who recently (almost solely) renovated a 5-bedroom house that is now being rented out. Since he’s quite knowledgeable in renovation and construction this analogy reflects that.

I told him that many clients want to change their lives and realize their most powerful selves. However, they feel like the mess that they have acquired is the equivalent of walking into a dilapidated house that needs serious renovation. The ceiling has leaks, the floor is scuffed and caked with dirt, there’s mold growing on the walls in the bathrooms, there’s holes that need repairing, the backyard has weeds and grass as high as your waist, and to top it off the electricity is not up to code.

In this analogy, the house represents our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical well-being. If we walked into this house with nothing but good intentions but are told that whatever condition the house is in we must fix it all ourselves. I guarantee you, anyone who’s unskilled and untrained in renovations would immediately step back out of that house with their hands up.
Most people wouldn’t know where to start.

Some would think maybe they could learn the skills necessary to renovate the house. But the more they learned the more they’d realize just how much fixing the house actually needs. Every solution would uncover another problem in need of fixing. This could lead even the most smart, skilled, and strong-willed person feeling helpless, overwhelmed, and incompetent.
This reflects the massive labor that my clients have to do on an emotional, spiritual, and psychological level. It is not for the faint of heart.

The therapist is the person that comes into the house with you and goes “okay this is overwhelming but let’s take inventory then decide what the next best step is. Let’s also figure out what is in great condition but might appear broken and with some polish and shine will return to its former glory.” The therapist will guide you along the process of renovating room after room so at the end of your experience your house is this warm, inviting, nurturing space that you can’t wait to go back to.

Some people’s homes have been more neglected and need more work, while other people’s need some additions to spice things up. You may have a decent kitchen, and a great bathroom but you want to add a beautiful pool or a beautiful deck to turn it into your dream home. Therapy is a tool to help you upgrade your living situation so it’s not merely livable, but a beautiful vision realized.

In short, a therapist is a guide. Any healer is a guide. We are not the ones doing the renovations. We are not the ones doing the healing. You are. You have the power to heal yourself. We assist. So I’ll walk through the house with you to help you clarify your vision and to remind you of the beauty already there, as well as the potential to make the space into your dream.

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