Why therapy works

A Case Study: Cathy. (names have been changed)

When a young woman named Cathy scheduled an appointment at my office for an initial consultation, I prepared for her arrival in the same way that I do for all of my new patients. The introductory session consists primarily of fact finding, detail collecting, intake questions and background information; typically, the meeting ends with appointment scheduling, paperwork signing, and contact exchanges. However, meeting someone like Cathy felt refreshingly different, and the psychological growth that followed was truly astounding.

Recently diagnosed with depression by her primary care physician, Cathy detailed her unsuccessful trial with her antidepressant, describing her life as “empty,” and “unfulfilled.” She continued to explain her lifestyle as a stay-at-home mother to three young children, constantly shuffling them to and from school and extracurricular activities, as well as preparing meals and caring for the household.

I asked her about her support system, to which she answered with dismay. Most of her sibling’s struggle with alcoholism, and her husband is rarely home, let alone communicative. Adam (her husband) grapples with financial management, often spending erratically and mishandling savings.

I knew that Cathy would benefit from psychotherapy, so we began arranging weekly appointments. Together, Cathy and I worked together to explore and analyze Adam’s behavior, practicing confrontation and confidence in her feelings and fears. As she grew more comfortable, she began piecing together various trends in his behavioral patterns, despite Adam casting aside her concerns and trivializing her worry. This was a watershed moment in our therapeutic process, Cathy learned how to properly recognize and identify her anger — a major step in the healing process.

First and foremost, I knew that her shame and vulnerability deserved much-needed validation and trust. Adam may distort her thoughts at home, but my office served as a safe haven for her energy. I essentially created a place for her to feel comfortable exploring her own hypothesis without judgement. I needed to Cathy to avoid buying into what his reality was in efforts to establish her own thoughts. As a result of her progress, we slowly began lowering her antidepressant dosage.

Talk-Therapy traditionally connects the subconscious past to the conscious present, my work with Cathy achieved just that. As she searched deeper and deeper into her previous experiences and past decisions, she gained more clarity and insight into her emotions. I provided her with affirmation and support, which empowered her to seek out lifestyle changes that would benefit her, rather than hurt her. She used her treatment to affect those challenging changes because she knew they’d eventually prove to be rewarding. The more she stepped out of her comfort zone, the more she grew in return. Sure enough, with tremendous courage and focus, Cathy decided that it would best to leave her emotionally abusive husband and to return back into the workforce.

Cathy recently completed her master’s degree. She currently runs a speech therapy program for every public school in this borough. She is now medication-free and leads a fulfilling life, she claims; “ I didn’t know who she was before seeing a therapist.” I laugh whenever I hear her say that, because it is entirely untrue, Cathy always knew and believed in her potential… she just needed someone who could help her reach out and achieve it.

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