The small victories in counselling

Thomas Goenczi
Lookout Contributor

Everyone’s therapeutic journey is distinct and can vary significantly from others. The duration of therapy, reasons for seeking help, severity, connection to oneself and therapist, and intentions differ from person to person. However, the small victories that inevitably occur in the counselling experience transcend all the variables.

Unassuming triumphs are present in each session. They are subtle and sometimes go unnoticed, but if we begin to recognize them and use them as kindling for something larger, the fire which burns for achieving our purpose in therapy rises significantly.

What is a small victory in therapy? First, let’s rule out what it is not.

There are times in therapy – often early on or when struggles persist – when we find ourselves yearning for that one big moment where it all comes together in a singular flash, where our struggles dissolve, and we are restored to a state of psychological equanimity.

When we pursue a moment of ‘sudden therapeutic enlightenment’, we become too attached to the idea of being cured by an external phenomenon. Moreover, when we have a misguided desire for such a moment, we can potentially create negative thought patterns. This could lead to self-loathing when that panacea moment doesn’t materialize.

This isn’t to denigrate those moments because they exist as a psychological fact. However, they may take away from the unrealized efforts we have been putting forth. If we have been developing our inner relationships and putting them into action via counselling and/or other self-care practices, we open ourselves up to the potential of having that numinous experience in therapy. Still, that moment where it all clicks is thanks to the unconscious accumulation of small victories.

The lesser wins matter, and they become valuable once we recognize they assist in raising our self-esteem. The minor triumphs are often the moments where we are presented with an opportunity to continue with our old pattern of behaviours, but we choose courage and start anew.

Some minor victories include:

Showing up to counselling when you don’t feel up for it;

Making that extra appointment or pushing an appointment closer than originally scheduled, thus making sure you don’t squander any of the work you’ve already accomplished;

Being open and not allowing defensiveness or avoidance to get the best of you;

Bringing up a topic that you need to address and embodying a sense of courage in doing so – this relates to the ideas, thoughts, or actions that you find disturbing, which can build into resentment or shame for yourself;

Reflecting on the content that came up in the session afterwards and trying to gain a deeper understanding of the experience – what just happened in the room, what worked, what leaves you thinking;

Allowing emotion.

The minor victories are quintessential for a successful experience. When we bring them into our awareness, they help develop a sense of momentum and achievement. These smaller victories lead to grand triumphs, the ones where we stand on top of the mountain and scream, “I DID IT!’ and, isn’t that the ultimate goal? To reach that secure sense of achievement of developing your higher Self, which embodies the change necessary to become the best version you need to be, not just for yourself, but for everyone around you.

Thomas Goenczi is an RCN Veteran and MA Clinical Counsellor with Private Practice: Well Then Therapy.

The content is not intended to substitute professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your mental health professional or other qualified health provider with any questions regarding your condition.

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