All of us have all the skills we need to live our desired lives. But sometimes we need a little help uncovering these skills, and that’s where therapy comes in.
Childhood and other trauma can have a deep and meaningful impact on our current lives. Alison Ledworowski, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker fwith Nevada Health Centers (NVHC), says that this not only affects our mental health, but also our physical health.
“For many generations, we’ve been conditioned to just accept the things that happen to us,” she says. “But it doesn’t serve anyone to stuff it down and get on with it.”
NVHC’s licensed clinical social workers use psychotherapy, or talk therapy, to help patients with a broad range of mental illnesses and emotional challenges. Psychotherapy can help eliminate or control troubling symptoms, increasing overall well-being. These services are offered through in-office talk therapy for individuals, families and couples of all ages, as well as group therapy sessions.
Through therapy, we can understand that we are in control of our own lives and there are things we can do to improve our situations.
These benefits can include:
- Improved relationships
- Parenting support
- Emotional wellness
- Healthy communication
- Better life balance
- Self-discovery and growth
- Increased ability to regulate emotion and manage stress
- Strategies to increase social support, coping skills
- Better control of thoughts
“My goal with my patients is to open them up to the possibility of accepting and creating their own happiness,” Ledworowski says.
If you’re curious about how therapy can help you achieve your own happiness, read on.
What happens first in therapy
The first appointment is mostly about information gathering. You’ll meet with your therapist, who will ask all kinds of questions, including family history, social support, coping skills, substance abuse and risk factors in your home. Be assured that this is a judgement-free zone. Your therapist needs to know where you’re starting from and where you want to go, so they can help you get there.
“This helps us to see the whole picture of what is going on in your life,” Ledworowski explains.
At this meeting, you’ll also establish a schedule that fits best with your life. Ledworowski often gives her patients reading assignments and other homework, so this will be discussed at the first meeting as well.
She encourages her patients to ask questions throughout. “It’s very important that they understand why we’re doing what we’re doing,” she explains.
During the following sessions, the therapist and patient will start getting to know each other and build a rapport. “They’ll share more and we’ll get into a groove,” Ledworowski says.
Ledworowski has her patients look at their schedules, emotions and reactions to life events. She’ll ask them if they have trouble sleeping or if they snap at their families or co-workers.
“These are the kinds of things I want to work on with them,” she says.
But it’s not just talking. Therapists will start giving their patients tools they can use to start addressing their barriers. For Ledworowski, this might mean teaching mindfulness techniques — the ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing.
And there’s also cognitive restructuring, which sounds more complicated than it is. Ledworowski explains this as looking at the statements we make and replacing the negative ones with something positive.
“We also work on interpersonal skills, emotional regulation and whatever it is that’s holding them back,” she says. “We’re basically rewiring their brains to help them achieve the lives they want.”
Ledworowski specializes in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), which means that two things can be true at the same time. “You may have been abused by a parent as a child, which crushed your soul,” she says. “AND you’re capable of recovering and being in charge of your own happiness now.”
She explains that DBT requires the therapist to be authentic and, at times, confrontational. “While this may be difficult to hear, I believe it’s important for personal growth to acknowledge where we’re getting stuck,” she says. “I will make sure we have a rapport built first and will always welcome feedback.”
That rapport is very necessary, as therapy typically uncovers old wounds. “It can be terrifying and uncomfortable and involve tears,” Ledworowski says. “But this is stepping outside of our comfort zones. I know it’s hard, but it’s important.”
How long does therapy take?
Therapy is different for everyone, but Ledworowski says results are always attainable. “It depends on the extent of their trauma and their willingness to participate in the solutions,” she says. “But we almost always see progress.”
She firmly believes that happiness is a choice, though she hasn’t always thought that way. “When I first saw that quote on a plaque, I thought it was unachievable,” she says. “But as I have gone through therapy and life experiences and pushed myself through all these coping skills, I have realized that it is a choice.”
She gives the example of a patient struggling with chronic pain, something that was certainly not chosen by them. “They wake up every day in pain, with minimal chance of getting better, so it’s up to them to find their own happiness in daily joys,” she says. “When you realize you have to make your own happiness, it gives you control over your own life.”
Ready to get started?
As with other services, NVHC has a sliding fee scale for mental health and addiction services. If you’re interested in learning more about how NVHC might be able to help you live the life you want, call 800.787.2568.