Are you a self saboteur?

Of course you are. We all are in one way or another.

What this means is that you subconsciously sabotage your success. I see this all the time in therapy. People make the effort to find and sign on with a therapist but then derail their progress somehow. This often leads to the belief that therapy is unhelpful or it may result in perpetually seeking new providers.

Counseling is scary. It can feel really uncomfortable to dive into trauma, explore emotions or confront certain parts of self. It makes sense that there might be a subconscious effort to protect oneself from vulnerability. However, the protection usually comes from wounded parts that prioritize avoidance over healing.

If you want to get the most out of therapy it will help to be mindful of the following:

  • Keep your appointments. Do you frequently reschedule, cancel or forget your appointments? If so, you may want to consider the possibility of unconscious resistance to doing the work. You can explore this in therapy! Making progress requires consistent scheduling. Talk to your provider about the frequency that seems most appropriate for you. Schedule at that pace and show up for your sessions!
  • Be present and honest. It’s not enough to simply attend counseling sessions. If you’re not engaged, open and vulnerable, progress will be slow. It’s understandable if you need time to build trust and comfort with the process and the provider. However, if you’ve been going to sessions for a while and you’re still withholding information or not following through on action steps outside of session, then you’re probably sabotaging wellbeing. Talk to your provider about this.
  • Be willing to invest in yourself. It’s true that the cost of healthcare is prohibitive at times and financial barriers may make it difficult to access care. However, be really honest with yourself about how much your mental and emotional health is worth to you. If the only way you’ll seek care is if it’s free or low cost, yet you’ll spend money on other expensive things, then you’re not really prioritizing your wellbeing. It’s worth exploring why that might be the case. Counselors aren’t trying to manipulate you to make a bunch of money. Most are scraping by themselves (therapists are often severely underpaid/undervalued for their level of education). It’s not the provider you’re investing in anyway. It’s yourself. If you’re griping about the cost or quibbling over late cancellation fees, it may be worth considering how committed you really are to your mental/emotional health.
  • Do the work outside of sessions. It’s not enough to sit in therapy for an hour every week or so. You have to process further on your own and apply what you’ve learned to your life. If your therapist gives you homework, do it! If you don’t make any effort to tend to your progress outside of scheduled counseling time, you may be subconsciously keeping yourself stuck. Ask yourself, “what’s the benefit to staying exactly where I am?” to find out more about this pattern.
  • Acknowledge your therapist’s humanity and accept responsibility for yourself. No one is perfect, including your therapist! They have lives and problems too, which means they’ll show up better on some days than others. It means sometimes they’ll be off on their guidance or forget something. Cut them some slack, especially it they’re on their game most of the time. If you feel negatively impacted, SPEAK UP! Don’t just stop coming to therapy. Don’t harbor a grudge against your therapist. Learning to have hard conversations is a big part of emotional growth. Use this as an opportunity to practice that skill. Your therapist should recognize that and regard the situation as a learning opportunity; they should be compassionate in their response to you. If not, you can ask for them to make a referral to another provider. Whatever the case, it’s important to recognize that your healing is ultimately YOUR responsibility. Therapists aren’t magicians, they can’t wave a wand and fix everything for you. YOU have to do the work. If you’re repeatedly either attributing progress to your therapist or blaming them for lack of it, get curious about what that really means for you.
  • Ask for referrals if it’s a bad fit. If you don’t feel your therapist is a good fit for you, chances are they feel that too. Don’t ever stay to appease someone else! Rather than ghost them or simply stop counseling altogether, let them know you’d like help finding another provider. Most therapists understand this and will support you in getting the help you need (they ought to anyway!) Sometimes it takes a bit to find the right person for you. Don’t give up! Check out my previous post, How to Choose a Therapist, to help with that.

It takes a lot of courage and commitment to engage in the process of emotional healing. Commend yourself simply for making the effort. When stuck or struggling, dig deeper and recognize that’s part of the process. Exploring the subconscious factors that impede progress is key for getting the most out of therapy!

With Love & Compassion,

Adina Arden Cooper

I'm a lover, a guide and a supportive companion. An artist, an ally and an advocate. I help individuals connect more deeply with themselves and with others through shadow work. I believe that shared humanity is a powerful strength and that our stories connect us in beautiful and sacred ways. As I stumble, skip, or soar my way through this life, I invite you to join me on the journey. Likewise, I'm honored to travel with you. In witnessing one another, we find meaning.