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Telling Your Story In Therapy

Karen contacted me for therapy and told me that all she wanted was for me to document her story. She asked me to take notes on my computer while in session and write what she told me. That was no problem for me as I always take notes anyway. Taking notes as a therapist is really helpful because I can read back to my client (and to myself) in the next session what happened in the last session(s). What my client actually said can be of great value. I like to write their exact words because those words often give hints to the puzzle we are trying to solve. The puzzle is basically, “How can we as a team reach the goal of peace of mind, self-esteem, and harmony in relationships.” So when Karen asked me to document her story I was happy to do it.

Karen began by telling me her earliest memories from infancy (yes, there are some conscious memories) and childhood. Most people have some memories of this time of life. Many have detailed memory of specific events. If someone has very little or no memory of childhood that is most often a warning sign that something really stressful was going on and the feelings and events got repressed in order to cope.

As Karen spoke I wrote a steam of her monologue sometimes asking questions and asking for clarification. What emerged was a childhood story that revealed the genesis of her adult emotions and behaviors. It was easy to make clear connections between something that happened in her childhood and what was happening in her life currently. When I read the session’s notes back to Karen she could actually see an expanded picture of herself and what formed her core beliefs and patterns. Sometimes she would look up in surprise and say, “Did I really say that?”

Denial of the impact of childhood experience has on us is a common coping mechanism. If we trivialize the emotions we felt at the time we somehow feel we can deal with it better especially if the events were upsetting. By reading back to Karen what she actually said to me she hears the emotion that was denied and trivialized and can better acknowledge how she really felt at the time. This realization and acknowledgment is very important. If you trivialize your past experience you cannot acknowledge it. If you can’t acknowledge it then you can’t heal it.

As Karen and my sessions with her continued she told more and more of her childhood and her teen years. She took us both up to her current life. Finally I was able to read back to Karen her life story. A life story told in this way to a therapist can be liberating. If the therapist helps her client acknowledge how her experiences affected her then real positive change can happen.

Both Karen and I were grateful for the experience. Karen is continuing her therapy and we are now doing processes that transform the hurt she felt and could not solve until now. Very satisfying!

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