““My therapist has helped me learn to understand that if you don’t unpack your own emotional baggage it’s no longer baggage–it’s deadweight.” 

Gina Barreca, 

This quote says a lot about what a client needs to do in therapy. Basically a person has to work hard, be responsible and be motivated.

The Hard Work of Therapy

Therapy is hard work. It is not easy to overcome a lifetime of behaviour and beliefs. And problems such as depression symptoms, addiction and codependency   often serve as protection against underlying pain.  They don’t yield easily. When we try to go beneath them we encounter pain that can feel overwhelming. It  can feel easier to give up. If we want to succeed we have to keep working constantly. 

In addition, therapy is not like going to the doctor. There you are given treatment. Therapy is different. You are given information and you make choices. The information can be difficult to hear and understand. The choices can be difficult and require a lot of work. And what happens is up to you. You have to take responsibility. 

Responsibility in Therapy

“Healing comes from taking responsibility. To realize that it is you – and no one else – that creates your thoughts, your feelings and your actions.”

Peter Shepherd

Responsibility in therapy is about being active. First you need to choose your therapist. Interview a number of people. Ask questions. Find out as much as you can. Be direct. Listen to yourself carefully. Do you like this person? Do you feel safe with them? Can you express yourself fully without feeling judged? When in therapy, be creative, look for your own resources to augment the therapy. Read, research, do outreach; join groups such as alcoholics anonymous, children of alcoholics, codependents anonymous.  Be a partner in the therapy not a passive follower. All this requires staying the course, which requires motivation.


Nothing will work unless you do.”

Maya Angelou

Jane, a child of alcoholic parents, who struggled with a painful life of codependency and depression symptoms always persisted in her efforts to change her life. Which she did very successfully. I asked her how she did this. She said, “Early on, I was ready to give up therapy. It was too hard and there were never clear answers. But one day it came to me that I run marathons and they’re really tough. Suddenly I realized that therapy is also a marathon.”

Therapy requires motivation, lots of it. Why? Basically you are fighting against yourself. One part of you wants to change, but is continually opposed by the old negative part that fights change. 

Bill, an alcoholic with severe depression symptoms and anxiety attacks brought on by childhood trauma, gave up on therapy 3 times. He always returned.“More and more I saw the problems as me, mainly the self hating part of me that wanted to keep me drinking. I had to keep fighting it, over and over.” 

Above all, therapy requires a commitment. Whatever progress a person makes is through hard work, responsibility and motivation. Yet it can be very rewarding to overcome problems that have seriously harmed our lives.

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