Therapy as Sailing a Boat

If you have had therapy before, you probably have your own metaphors that embody what it feels like. However, if you are new to the world of therapy, it may be helpful to think about it as a sea voyage. Journeys have become an overused way of describing something during the last couple of decades, so perhaps it would be helpful to develop the idea of therapy as a sea voyage by adding images that might make sense to you.

I think of my role as a therapist as someone who doesn’t steer the boat for you, but helps you to navigate through the unpredictable waters of changes and life events. 

Sometimes it could be a fast-flowing river which leaves you feeling out of control and focuses your attention on surviving rather than noticing the intricacies if your journey, the river banks full of colour and life and your own ability to row continuously and tirelessly.

At other times it may feel as if you are in the middle of a vast ocean with only the sun, the stars and the waters to keep you company – drifting gently but without clear purpose or direction whilst a part of you longs for a strong wind or the safe certainty of a harbour.

In therapy, we undertake these voyages together and my role, in a way, is to help you slow down, feel safe. And notice what is around you. The paradoxical theory of change tells us that to change something, we need to start from the reality of the present moment.

There is little point in pretending by sitting on board your ship, drinking cocktails under the flawless sky when in reality the sea is getting stormier, black clouds are already gathering on the horizon and part of you knows you need to do something about it.

Yes, this is exactly what happens – we defend against changes by pretending that all is well – an eternal sun is forever shining above us even if the evidence of a darkening sky is already present.

I can assure you that therapeutic space is open to all parts of you – the ones struggling to face what is happening in reality and those that are already capable of sailing the boat for you, even if they don’t know it yet and are yet to learn how to do it.

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