Different Forms of Healing: Therapy, Coaching + Peer Support (Part 1)
Written by: James Bosch and Cindy Rutter, BSN, MFTI
Many times, after a tragic event in our lives things just don’t naturally settle back to how they were before. These events can often become even more challenging if we had emotional trials in our lives before There are many roads to healing, and usually, the hardest part is taking the first big step of asking for help! Often, we just can’t do it alone. The purpose of this article is to help you understand what kind of help is out there and when on your path to healing, you may want to consider getting assistance from a trained therapist, a life coach, a peer supporter, or a combination of the three.
Some of us have a hard time admitting we need help and can no longer get through the difficult parts of our recovery alone or by sheer willpower. Many of us grew up with messages that this is a weakness or a stigma that if we get help, say from a therapist, then we are somehow crazy, broken or more commonly “weak.” In contrast, we the authors believe that the act of asking for help on your healing journey is a sign of great strength and wisdom, and yes, even courageous. So, we will outline three types of help; Therapy, Life Coaching, and Peer Support. In Part One, we will discuss therapy as one potential means of healing.
Let’s start with what is psychotherapy? There are many different forms and styles of psychotherapy based on the training and orientation of the therapist, but therapy itself generally always consists of a few key components. Psychotherapy is sometimes called “talk-therapy.” When a person is struggling with an emotional or psychological issue, and they go to a licensed professional to “talk” about this issue and receive tools to cope, this is considered talk-therapy. But there is so much more going on in the sessions than just talking and there are many types of therapy that rely less on talking and more on the body, exercises, and education.
The key component the makes therapy work is the relationship between the patient and the therapist. There have been meta-studies done on the which type of therapy is most effective, and the bottom line in the research and practice is that if there is a relationship of trust and safety, healing will occur regardless of what techniques the therapist is employing. This relationship is also unique because the cornerstone is confidentiality and an unspoken agreement that the therapist “will do no harm.” Carl Rodgers, the famous relational psychotherapist, called this unique way of holding a safe and healing space for the patient, unconditional positive regard. Rodgers called his type of therapy “client-centered therapy.” "It means caring for the client, but not in a possessive way or in such a way as simply to satisfy the therapist's own needs. It means caring for the client as a separate person, with permission to have his [or her] own feelings, his [or her] own experiences." (Rogers in a 1957 article published in the Journal of Consulting Psychology).
Unlike other relationships we may have with family and friends, the therapist has no invested interest in changing the client and emotional ties into their story. The trust between a client and therapist is essential in the healing from trauma, where the outside world has become an unsafe place. Once the trust is established in the therapeutic relationship, then the client and therapist can get down to the task of seeing what tools are needed to address the issues keeping the client from living the life they want to live.
With trauma recovery, we must address some of the challenging thought processes that can torment a survivor as well as the trauma that is stored in the body. Some of the therapeutic modalities are cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and acceptance commitment therapy (ACT). CBT helps us change our cognitive distortions and negative messages that hinder our healing, DBT brings in the important concept of mindfulness and emotional regulation, and ACT helps to accept our irrational thoughts as not real and examine our values. Narrative therapy helps externalize our emotions and challenges and create new stories in our lives. Many somatic therapeutic models help to address the trauma stored in the body that is often not expressible or connected to words and thoughts.
Another type of therapy is EMDR or eye movement desensitization reprocessing is a therapeutic model developed originally to treat war vets who have posttraumatic stress disorder or PTSD. EMDR brings together the thoughts, emotions, and body sensations. Using a process of carefully placed cues by the therapists and bilateral-stimulation, the brain is able to reprocess and become less controlled by the trauma responses (fight, flight, freeze and dissociate).
Many therapists use a combination of techniques, yet the most important element is finding someone you are willing to trust. I like to think of it as someone you will allow to hold the flashlight and accompany you to those dark, scary places that are holding you back in life.
In Part Two, we will explore what a life coach is and why you would see a life coach and not a therapist. We will also explore the distinct differences in Coaching and Therapy. (Read part two and part three)
Cooper, M, O'Hara, M, Schmid, PF, & Bohart, AC. The Handbook of Person-Centered Psychotherapy & Counseling. New York: Palgrave Macmillan; 2013.
Lilienfeld, S. O., & Arkowitz, H. (2012). Are All Psychotherapies Created Equal? Scientific American Mind, 23(4).
About the Authors:
James Bosch was burn injured as an infant. He has dedicated much of his professional life in the service of helping other burn survivors and their families heal and find meaning after a burn. Acceptance of new life, new body, and finding new meaning are at the core of his work. He speaks and facilitates at burn meetings in Canada and the United States. He is a member of the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors SOAR National Advisory Committee and a consultant.
Cindy Rutter has been an advocate for Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors and involved in the burn community for more than 30 years. She recently completed her masters degree to become a marriage and family therapist. Cindy has been a burn survivor for 57 years and is the former nurse manager of the burn unit in San Diego.