Saturday, 8 November 2014

Can people really change?

For me, therapy has always been about the business of change.  If therapy does not result in an individual being able to manifest significant changes in their life, what is the point of all that talking and all those great insights?  Actually, many people do not realize this but insight does not occur using intellect alone.  To gain real insight, one has to experience the “aha” not just with the head but in one’s very guts and in the heart at a profoundly deep emotional level.  That is why it is possible to be very smart, grasp all kinds of new ideas about oneself and yet not change at all. That is why self help books continue to be a billion dollar industry.  Some clients laugh when I tell them that real insight is kind of like an “emotional throwing up”.  Something you thought was true is no longer and there is a whole new knowing that occurs at a gut wrenching level; old beliefs have to be discarded and then you have a piece of the puzzle that you never had before.  That’s insight and without it, real change, lasting change, does not happen.

Can people really change?  I think so.  No, I know so.  How?  Because I have seen it over and over again.  There is no way I would have stayed in this business if that were not the case.  Clients often wonder out loud how it is that I can do what I do...talking with people all day about their pain and their problems?  It is because I am in awe of the changes that I see people make, sometimes even jealous of their transformation and the rewards of witnessing such change is beyond inspiring. 

The reality, though, is that real change is hard and it is human nature to stick with what is familiar no matter how painful life may be.  It is because of this that most people do not come to see a therapist and do not make significant changes in their lives until they have endured a great deal of turmoil. Going to see a therapist is often a last resort after people having tried everything they know and have come up empty handed.  That is why, as clich├ęd as it may sound, crisis can indeed be breakthrough.  Some have called it “breaking open”.  In fact, significant change is not likely to happen without it. 


  1. I agree that change is possible, especially if you can work with your therapist to gain self-awareness and insight into the innate parts of yourself that just are the way they are. I think self-acceptance can lead to change.

  2. Thank you for this addition. Self acceptance is such an important part of change. I will be devoting an entire blog to this subject soon.

  3. Change.. Just thinking about it triggered a long deep sigh. For a few reasons I love this post, but mostly because it states quite simply that change. is. hard. I reflected a bit on my own experience with change and I can say that not only is change hard, but I feel it is close to impossible without the help of an objective person from whom you can gain personal insight. Is it even possible to objectively assess oneself? I'm somewhat doubtful. Change is hard because it is painful - and we are programmed to avoid pain partly because we associate it with danger. Only, not all pain is dangerous - and this is why I believe so deeply in the benefits of therapy. I'll admit that for me it took the pain of staying the same to seem "more dangerous" than the pain of changing, before I sought the help of a therapist, but since that moment, therapy has provided a very sacred space in which I was able to find the courage to surrender and embrace so many more options for myself than I ever imagined were available to me. It is the space that taught me that while change may be very hard, it is also very possible.