"What If I'm Not a Good Client?" and Other Thoughts about Starting Therapy

Photo by Kira auf der Heide

Beginning therapy can feel terrifying.

“You want me to share details about my life, talk about my feelings and unveil my secrets with a stranger?”

Well, sort of.

Therapy is about building a healthy, trusting relationship.

I don’t expect any client to trust me immediately. Initially we are focused on getting to know each other. Are we a good fit? Does my experience match your needs? Do you feel comfortable?

It can take 4 - 6 weeks to settle in to the therapy process.

So much of therapy is about diving into the unknown. Art therapy has the ability to explore the unconscious, the experiences that exist under your cognitive “thinking” brain. It takes trust to feel safe enough to tap into these experiences, thoughts and feelings. So, it’s important to take it slowly.

Building a relationship in therapy allows you to practice healthy boundaries, communication and self-advocacy. It is within this relationship that you will grow.

You may be wondering, “What if I’m not a good client?”

A “good” client doesn’t actually exist; there are no “good” or “bad” ways to participate in therapy. Therapy does require commitment and a openness to explore your experiences. Each person’s experience in therapy will differ and there is no set timeline for the healing process.

My role of therapist is to support you, offer my expertise, and help you explore your healing process further.

How do I find a therapist who is a good fit?

I’ve mentioned several times the concept of establishing a relationship with a therapist who is a good fit. But what does that actually mean?

Therapy works best if you feel comfortable and safe.

You may also consider a therapist’s expertise. For example, finding a therapist with training in Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders is important if you are struggling with postpartum anxiety.

Sometimes connection isn’t quite explainable. Trust your intuition. After all, this is for you.


Adele Stuckey, LPC, ATR-BC is a Board Certified Art Therapist, Licensed Professional Counselor and founder of Alexandria Art Therapy, LLC in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. She works with adults experiencing stress during life transitions, including motherhood. Read more about her practice here.

Journal Prompts for Introspection

It’s not uncommon to hear about journaling as a form of introspection, self care or processing thoughts. But where to begin? Today I share several journal prompts to get the writing process started.

Step One

Grab a journal, notebook or piece of spare paper and a writing utensil. There are no rules for the materials you use; simply find something that allows you to physically write your thoughts down. (There’s a bit of magic in the tangible / kinesthetic method of writing.)

Step Two

Choose a prompt from the list below.

Step Three

Write without editing. Allow your thoughts to flow freely onto the paper. This is for you and you only.

Journal Prompts

  1. In this moment, here and now, I feel …

  2. I’m most calm when …

  3. What energy would you like to channel into your life? Write about that.

  4. Create a space in your mind, real or imaginary, that feels safe, comfortable and relaxing. Imagine surrounding yourself with an environment that allows you to let your guard down. This space is for you and no others. Now, begin writing about this space. Explore the senses with the following questions and paint a picture with words. Be as descriptive as possible.

    What do you see?

    What is the temperature of the air?

    What do you smell?

    What do you hear?

    What textures surround you?

    What comforting items exist in this space?

    Is it inside / outside / neither / both?

    Is it light or dark / both or neither?

    How do you feel in this space?

    How else can you describe this space?

  5. I would like to let go of …

  6. Write a letter to your past self. What would you like to share?

  7. Make a list of your favorite self care rituals (small or large)

  8. Scribble on the page (who said journaling has to include words?)

  9. I feel okay when …

  10. Stream of consciousness writing: Allow your thoughts to flow onto the paper without judgement.

Recommended Reading

In graduate school, I was introduced to the book Journal to the Self: Twenty Two Paths to Personal Growth. I appreciate the variety of writing styles and journaling prompts discussed in this book and offer it as a tool to guide your writing process. Give it a read if you are looking for journaling inspiration.

Keri Smith writes a variety of books in the Wreck This series: Books that are made to be written in, modified, dirtied, and maybe even destroyed. Take a look at the Wreck This Journal to break out of the mold.

This post contains affiliate links.

Self Care in the Real World

The habitual practice of self care will change throughout your life — that’s a given. Life is comprised of transitions; transitions elicit stress; and we turn to what we know to cope. When resources are depleted, the ability to cope with stress in a healthy manner can feel overwhelming, burdensome, or simply exhausting. Tuning in with awareness can bring insight to patterns and habits, both healthy and less healthy. Ask yourself: How do you handle stress (“good and “bad”*)?

Transitions can serve as a catalyst to discovery.

The way in which you cope with stress during specific times in your life will depend on your internal and external resources.

Internal resources = personal strengths, abilities, skills
External resources = therapy, loved ones, friends, pets, jobs

Life in college will look different than life in high school. Life as a working adult will look different than life in retirement. Grief and loss complicates day-to-day living; and new parenthood presents challenges that are often unexpected.

No matter what phase of life you are experiencing,

a consistent self care practice is possible.

self care tea.jpg

I am constantly shifting and modifying my self care schedule. You read that right; I schedule self care. Scheduling self care is a way I can ensure that I prioritize myself. My Sunday evening ritual entails sitting down with my digital calendar and paper planner. By plotting out my week, I can check for gaps in self care and ensure a healthy balance of work, life and relaxation. Honor your needs by giving it space, literally and figuratively.

What does self care look like in the real world?

My self care practice shifts depending on the day of the week. Some mornings provide the opportunity to move (i.e. kind way of saying exercise), spend time with others, make art or practice any other moderate level of self care — things that take 5 - 30 minutes.

Throughout the day I practice mini moments of self care. These include drinking sparkling water, pulling an oracle card, listening to music, repeating a mantra, or smelling an essential oil. These ground me in the moment and allow my brain to focus on the here and now.

Take a look at two versions of a daily self care practice highlighting micro self care throughout the day and a mega self care practice.

Self care can be as simple as taking a deep breath.



 

* A note on “good” and “bad” stress: The brain and body reads all types of stress similarly. The body may respond to a joy filled wedding in the same way as the loss of a job. Practicing self care in both of the so-called “positive” and “negative” experiences is important. Decompress your body and bring a sense of peace for the mind - body connection.

 

Give yourself permission to prioritize your needs today.

Cultivating your Tribe

In the world of therapy we talk about support and resources a lot— probably every session. Our (healthy) support systems remind us that we are not alone.

Support systems do NOT include:

toxic family

unsupportive friends

people who push boundaries

Using the term “tribe” to discuss your community isn’t a new thing. A tribe is a distinctive, close-knit group. You have the power to cultivate a tribe that you trust to reciprocate vulnerability, trust and authenticity. You know these people are connected with your true self.

Tribes can be made up of:

people from school

People of the same gender

People of the opposite gender

people that love making art together

people who love improv

people that love coffee

people that love noise music

people in a book club

people who play sports together

people who have corgis

people who share the same career

people who play video games together

.. the list goes on


But how do you find your tribe?

Consider what you love and value. Go to meetups, shows, book readings, art classes. Join a sports league. Cultivating your tribe can be really hard. It requires you to be vulnerable and put yourself in an uncomfortable spot. How can you motivate yourself to enter into this space? Imagine what life would feel like with intimate connections, mutual respect and shared curiosity.

A member of your tribe:

respects your boundaries

listens

asks for support from you

adds value to your life

gets you

And even when you struggle to find your tribe, know that you are not alone.

Artist Toolbox: Magazines for Collage

Collage is one of my favorite ways to create artwork. As someone who has a difficult time drawing from my imagination, collage enables me to express myself without needing the drawing skills to create realistic images.

Below I share some of my favorite magazines for beautiful imagery, inspiring words and wellness focused themes.

Travel Friendly Self-Care Kit

For many the holidays means traveling. You’re (most likely) out of your comfort zone, away from your normal routines, and probably experiencing a bit of stress. Regardless of the health of your relationships, traveling can bring on stress.

Be prepared! Bring along items that elicit comfort, allow for self soothing, and simply feel good.

Today I share my travel self-care kit. Perfect for the holidays or anytime you are leaving the comfort of your own space. I carry most of these items with me daily.

travel-self-care-kit
  1. Notebook + Pen: for journaling, writing down ideas, making to-do lists

  2. Yogi Positive Energy Tea

  3. Here & Now Cards

  4. Chapstick

  5. Ear buds: for music + podcasts

  6. A felted stone: for something soft to ground and self-soothe

  7. Mints: for a quick sensory experience and minty freshness

  8. Zentangle supplies: to engage in mindful drawing

  9. Essential Oil Towelettes: soothing scents on the go

  10. Hand lotion: for a luxurious experience that takes seconds

  11. Lara Bars: to avoid that hangry feeling

  12. (not pictured) Sparkling water: an essential for me

  13. (not pictured) My phone: to text friends, look at comforting photos and listen to the above mentioned music + podcasts

  14. (not pictured) A small zippered bag that I carry these items in to easily transfer to whichever bag I am taking with me.

Take care of yourself this holiday season — it can be as simple as using any of these tools. Create your own toolbox and you’ll never be without your comforts.

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