“I thought I was over this by now.” It is easy to think that therapy can be a one and done thing. I’m a therapist; I’m supposed to help people resolve issues, right? It is great when that happens (and it does!), but it is also not unusual for old memories to pop up again from time to time. Many things can trigger old memories: life transitions, stress, reminders of past difficult life events, your children becoming the age that you were when something traumatic happened to you. It is not unusual to seek therapy to cope with some of these reminders when they come up again.
“But does that mean that this is going to keep happening and I’m forever stuck reliving old memories?” I hope not! I like to think of these times like speed bumps. Speed bumps do not stop you from moving forward, but they do make you slow down and look at your surroundings. Coming back allows you to reflect on your past therapy in a new way. It can be helpful to get a reminder of past skills that you have used to cope or to reflect on what is missing from your current toolkit for coping.
My hope is that each time you face these events, you have “leveled up” and have new ways of dealing with them. There is nothing wrong with coming back to therapy after you have completed treatment before. Many times, people come back to therapy. It does not mean that you failed or that therapy did not work the first time. It is merely information. The great thing is that you have been to therapy before so you have a better idea of what works and what does not for you. You may have more opinions, too, on what type of therapist is the right fit for you.
Here a few more tips to remember if you’ve hit a bump in the road:
1. Bumps are normal. They don’t last forever. When old symptoms return or you are faced with frustrations that you’ve felt in the past, it can be easy to assume that you are always going to feel the way that you feel right now. Reflecting on times what helped last time or using one of the five ways to find calm strategies may help you put some of those thoughts in perspective.
2. It is okay to ask for help. Our society likes to tell us that we should be able “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps” in order to get through difficult times. It is hard to ask for help, and it takes vulnerability to do so. Whatever you are going through, you are not alone. There are probably more people out there than you realize who are also struggling in similar ways to you and also debating whether they should ask for help.
3. What do you want to achieve and how is your current state holding you back? You’ve probably seen my home page. I’m in the business of helping folks take their life back. Bumps in the road don’t have to keep you stuck, but they can get in the way of getting what you want out of life if you let them. Recognizing why you want to get over the bump is important. It can also help you clarify “the why” of doing therapy in the first place. Like we talked about in the messy middle, things don’t always go as planned. Remembering what you want to achieve can help you get through those moments.