Therapy is not only for big issues like PTSD or acute trauma, but also the stuff we deal with every day, from people pleasing to how to have boundaries as an empath. Indeed, there are many kinds of therapies and therapists out there, all of whom have unique specialities and skill sets. In this week’s podcast and blog, I speak with registered psychotherapist Meghan Watson about finding the right kind of therapy and therapist for your needs, the importance of the therapist-client relationship, why self-care is essential, how to overcome people-pleasing behavior, how to navigate life as an empath and more!
As Meghan notes, there are many tools in a therapist’s toolbox that are designed to meet the unique needs of different individuals. Meghan specialises in:
1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): this type of therapy focuses on thoughts and feelings and how they affect behavior.
2. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT): the management of someone’s emotional world, helping them make sense of their moods and feelings.
3. Acceptance and Commitment therapy (ACT): this is a newer type of therapy. There are three main aspects to this therapy, based on psychological flexibility (how we start to feel more flexible in relation to the things we struggle with):
- Being present
- Doing what matters
- Opening up
4. The Gottman Method for Couples Therapy: this method is based on years of research. It focuses on how couples think in order to develop shared meaning together and explore what their love and intimacy looks like.
These practices fall in the realm of psychotherapy, which is the study and application of how to normalize, create and develop an understanding of thoughts, moods, cognition and beliefs and how to treat them with intention and support by specialists in the field of mental health.
When it comes to choosing a therapist that is right for you, there are some important things to consider:
- A therapist you can feel connected to. Your relationship with your therapist is the most important part of therapy because it lays the foundation for trust, which allows for honesty and healing.
- What you are struggling with. Make a list and identify what you are experiencing and what you need.
- Asking lots of questions. Not every therapist is skilled at marketing how amazing they are, so don’t be afraid to ask questions like “how do you take care of yourself?”. Get to know them and see if they are someone you can connect with.
One of the main issues Meghan deals with in her practice is people-pleasing behaviors and how to overcome them. People pleasing is a way of connecting with others that is often learned during childhood when a child’s emotional needs are not met due to an unpredictable parent or family member or intergenerational trauma. The child learns that when the people in their environment have specific needs and they meet these needs, it creates peace and allows for their own needs to get met. They learn that keeping other people happy will help them be happy, which creates an uncomfortable link between getting what they need and making sure everyone else is okay.
When it comes to people pleasing, Meghan points out that it is important to:
- Develop sense of your emotional needs and values. Remember, it is completely natural to have needs and emotions!
- Develop self-care activities that allow you to meet your needs.
- Learn how to state your emotional needs to others.
- Let go of your shame and blame and the negative beliefs you have about yourself.
- Take accountability. Look reflexively at yourself, which will empower you to take the next step in your healing process.
Meghan also does a lot of boundary work with empaths. An empath is a “super feeler vacuum cleaner”. Empathy is the main tool that an empath uses to connect with people and show them they understand—it lays the foundation for deep, relational moments. However, empaths often find that it can be difficult to differentiate between themselves and others, as they are always absorbing and taking everything in.
It is very important that empaths establish consistent and sustainable routines for boundaries, i.e. what they keep out and what they take in. As Meghan says, boundaries are not just about what you say no to, but also what you say yes to. If you are an empath, always ask yourself things like “Is this my feeling to own?”, “What am I going to take in?”, “What am I saying yes to?”, and “What is important?”. This is an ongoing process which will help you develop your psychological flexibility.
When it comes to therapy and any issue someone is dealing with, content is not as important as process. We need to focus on the “how?”, not just the “why?”. Therapy, at its core, is about teaching people the system that maintains their wellbeing, not just providing insight. This is what makes the therapeutic process sustainable and life-changing.
For more on therapy, people pleasing, empaths and mental health, listen to my podcast with Meghan (episode #196), and check out her website and Instagram. If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing! And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media (don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).
2:30 Why Meghan wants to make mental healthcare accessible to everyone
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