What The Doctor shows us about counselling.

If you haven’t been living under a rock this week you may well have picked up that Doctor Who has returned to our TV’s with Jodie Whittaker at the helm as The Doctor. So far I have seen very positive reviews and I think I have agreed with pretty much all of them. From what I see the BBC has moved the day, time and tone of the show and one that seems to be not as dark and something more accessible to a wider audience. 

There was a stand out moment for me that I’ve been unable to get out of my head since watching the show on Sunday evening. The Doctor was processing her transition from her previous form to her new one and in that process she said:

“Right now, I’m a stranger to myself. There’s echoes of who I was, and a sort of… call towards who I am, and I have to hold my nerve and trust all these new instincts, shape myself towards them. I’ll be fine. In the end. Hopefully.”

The Doctor

I was really struck by how this reflected my thoughts on my own journey through therapy and that in which I take my clients. Quite often therapy is about wanting to make a shift from one state to another. Be that in thoughts, behaviours or the processing of situations.

Let’s say, for example, we start off with negative core beliefs about ourselves, which mean our automatic thoughts about a situation can lead to potential destructive behaviours. Often a client would recognise their behaviour as destructive and not know why. Their desire would be to stop.

Through the process of counselling we understand the behaviour in context of the thoughts and use that to lead us to underlying reasons, in this case a negative core belief we have about ourselves. This can be a difficult journey but at some point in the process we encounter a tipping point. This point is where we discover what living without the negative might be but are still held by patterns of thinking and behaviour that may have become habitual. This habit is comforting, even if we know it’s bad for us. 

The other thing that can hold us back is the simple act of change. Not knowing how you will respond to situations when you are the “new you”. The Doctors words; “Right now, I’m a stranger to myself. There’s echoes of who I was, and a sort of… call towards who I am”, feel so real and, I feel, express this tipping point in the counselling process.

Young people especially find it hard to see that there can ever be a possibility to change. That who they are will be all they ever are. There are some young people who cannot see beyond the person they are right now and this can be crippling. I spoke about this before that supporting young people can be like showing them a window into a world they cannot yet see and trusting that at some point they take ownership of someone they want to be not who they think they should be. 

This is why so much work with young people has to be on building relationship and therefore trust. My experience is that the greater level of trust a young person has in you and in the fact that you are there for them and not with someone else’s or your own agenda, the more you will achieve. At this point a young person may try something new, like an experiment to new behaviour or new ways of thinking.  

The trick and difficulty is to take that next step and trust yourself and this new understanding of who you can be. To explore what it will be like. We may not know what the future may look like and perhaps we have to make some mistakes along the way and learn to be ok with that. 

I’ll leave the final words to The Doctor…

I have to hold my nerve and trust all these new instincts, shape myself towards them. I’ll be fine. In the end. Hopefully.” 

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