Hope is an important component of the healing process. In fact, believing therapy will work is an important predictor of success (Wampold & Imel, 2015). Yet, many people enter therapy as they near or begin experiencing hopelessness. At times, hopelessness can be a sign of serious concern warranting consultation with a mental health professional. It can also represent an opportunity for important life changes and transitions.
Finding a Therapy That Instills Hope
Unfortunately, harnessing the healing power of hope is not as simple as deciding to have hope. Hope is not a decision, but rather something that empowers decisions. This has important implications for therapy, including choosing the right therapist and approach. It is important to find a therapist and therapy approach you believe can help you. The same therapist and approach will not work for everyone. Leichsenring and colleagues (2018) reviewed research that suggests having a diversity of therapy approaches is best for the community of therapy consumers. This is likely, in part, because different approaches to therapy fit better with different people.
Each person’s path to hope is different. What instills hope in one person may not work for others. Still, we can learn from the stories and experiences of others. Effective therapists often become experts in helping people find and use hope to heal. Over time, therapists witness many ways people find hope in difficult situations and can draw from this collective wisdom in helping future therapy seekers.
… hope cannot be said to exist, nor can it be said not to exist. It is just like the roads across the earth. For actually the earth had no roads to begin with, but when many men pass one way, a road is made. (Lu Xun, 1921/1959, p. 101)
Many people experience a sense of hopelessness at times. While it is important to seek professional help if stuck in hopelessness for too long, not all aspects of hopelessness are bad. When we sit with hopelessness for a while, we may begin to see new possibilities emerge. The message embedded in hopelessness, in this case, may be to take some time to reflect on one’s life context or situation. Often, this is best done with a trusted therapist.
As a therapist, I have walked with many people from a place of hopelessness to a place of hope. While it is tempting to try to take shortcuts to get out of pain more quickly, this often produces a false and short-lived hope that does not empower change. It can be valuable to take some time to find a sustaining hope. At times, hope begins to emerge through trusting in someone. Having walked with many people through dark times to places of growth, experienced therapists tend to develop a strong faith that therapy can provide healing. This faith in the healing power of therapy can vicariously provide hope for people in therapy until they can find their own hope. This illustrates another reason it is important to find a therapist whom you trust.
Learning to listen to one’s emotions can be an important part of psychological healing and growth. Some emotions are more difficult to listen to and understand than others. Hope and hopelessness can both be valuable when we learn to befriend these emotions and discover the messages and lessons they have for us.
- Leichsenring, F., Abbass, A., Hilsenroth, M. J., Luyten, P., Munder, T., Rabung, S., & Steinert, C. (2018). “Gold standards,” plurality and monocultures: The need for diversity in psychotherapy. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 9.
- Lu Xun (1959). My old home. In Y. Xianyia & G. Yang (Ed. & Trans.). Lu Xun: Selected works (Vol. 1, pp. 90-101). Beijing: Foreign Language Press.
- Wampold, B. E., & Imel, Z. E. (2015). The great psychotherapy debate: The evidence for what makes psychotherapy work. New York, NY: Routledge.
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