It is typical for me when talking to a potential client to suggest that we meet for an initial session. This is an opportunity when I can learn more about the person’s issues and the degree to which I can help. It’s an opportunity for that person to get a sense of me and see if it feels comfortable to talk to me. Comfort is a big part of the therapeutic process. There does have to be a “fit” or “chemistry” between therapist and client. There has to be a sense of trust forming (though, of course, it is a process that takes some time). A sense that “I can talk to this person,” and some degree of comfort.
But for therapy to be effective it cannot be just a comfortable experience. In fact, some degree of discomfort is necessary as well. Discomfort that naturally arises when delving into one’s issues, what in a person’s life is causing distress. That process is by nature an uncomfortable act.
I aim in my work with clients to keep an open channel of communication about this comfort zone. And when in fact there is discomfort it is our task together to examine that. Sometimes that might mean that it is not the right connection between us. And sometimes it might mean that the client is encountering some issues that we need to dig a little harder to uncover and address. Perhaps those issues have to do with established patterns of behaving and seeing oneself based on previous relationships in that person’s life. The discomfort might be the discomfort that that person has with a parental figure, for example. The discomfort that the client feels can be a gateway for us to enter into and address these more troubling issues.
In the process, the client develops a greater tolerance for what is uncomfortable. Of course, there is a time when, especially in relationships, discomfort indicates something wrong that can only be remedied through ending the relationship. And times when leaving a relationship is the healthy thing to do. It usually takes some time, however, to discern that. In the process, there is the valuable experience of being with oneself and one’s discomfort. Developing great tolerance and less a need to flee or escape. Developing more an attitude of inquiry. It’s not an easy task, but one that I view as essential in the work the two of us do. A little discomfort in the end can lead to a lot of healing.