Therapy…it’s sort of like Stepping through the Waterfall
By Salley Schmid
I am an advocate for people making use of Mental Health Services.
I wish everyone could have the opportunity to speak with a supportive someone who is relatively objective and not tied in any way to the outcome of a person’s decisions. Many people have never gone to counseling so my goal here is to give readers a sense of what counseling is like and why it is worth trying when in emotional or relational distress. I use the analogy of a water fall to describe the counseling process. If you were standing under a pounding waterfall in the gap between the cliff wall and the water careening over the cliff’s upper edge, facing the cliff and pushing against it, trying to create change; this would be that place where you are relatively alone in your emotional pain. Counseling is like turning around and facing the waterfall. Pushing against the cliff was not changing anything. Looking at the waterfall equates with facing the distressing situation and painful emotions. Not hiding your face from it any more. Then through counseling, a hand reaches through the water fall to take your hand and help you step into the waterfall. The waterfall (your emotions) pounding on you is like letting yourself feel and spend time in the painful emotions. You don’t want to feel the pain, but staying stuck under the waterfall is not tolerable either and not helping. And you are stuck. So you step and you feel and you have a hand to hold to help you through, that’s your therapist’s hand. You must be careful walking through the pounding water but it can be done and it is the path out of the intolerable situation. It may take a while to walk through the pounding water and the waterfall will still be there when you emerge stronger on the other side. You now can choose to step back to it, but you are no longer stuck under it.
A therapist can serve many functions. A therapist is there, fully present to listen and understand, encourage, engage, challenge and facilitate digging deep to explore the range of possibilities leading to an individual making a decision for themselves. Therapists teach skills to help people manage distressing situations or thoughts. Therapists facilitate processes to help people push through a difficult time in order to reach the other side with strength and authenticity. Therapists make space for you to purge painful thoughts and emotions, wrestle with the unknown and unwanted, and to both rage and make peace. The therapist’s office and the therapeutic relationship serves as a safe place, a judgment free zone, a place to find and embrace authenticity and to take the risk to live out loud. If you are hurting, show mercy and kindness to yourself, love yourself enough to get help and take that walk through the waterfall…emerging strong and successful on the other side.
This Act Locally Waco blog post was written by Salley Schmid. Salley is a transplant from Kansas by way of Colorado (where her spirit soars). She also loves Vitamin SEA (YES, as in the ocean not the real vitamin). Salley is the mother of nearly graduated twin daughters and a nearly graduated step son. Can you say almost triplets? Salley has never given birth but is the proud mother of these three. As you can tell, since she is a step mother, she is in a “blended family” and since she has never given birth she is an adoptive mother. Salley has known painful relationships, loss, grief, love, loss of self, finding of self and both searching for and making deep soulful connections. All of her life story informs her work as a therapist as much as her training as a Therapist / Counselor. Salley is trained specifically in Marriage and Family Therapy and in “The Daring Way” work of researcher and author Brene Brown, and Positive Discipline Parenting.
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