What am I meant to learn from this plateau? What do I need to overcome to move to the next level?

As if preparing for battle, I carefully unfold and spread out 1 pair of tight black Capri pants, 1 chest squishing sports bra, my favorite purple dry-wick t-shirt, 1 pair of special support socks, 1 beloved pink/gray iPod sports band with hot pink headphones, 1 pair of slightly scuffed running shoes, and 1 cold bottle of water, on my bedspread. I step back to face down my running gear, fists on my hips, and assess my motivation for running today.

The back of my right knee has a dull throbbing pain, my left quad is as tight as a guitar string, and on the edge of my right scapula (in the most impossible place to stretch) I have a pea sized, sharp shooting spot of pain. My gremlin says, “What’s the point? You’ve been at the same pace and same training pattern for 4 weeks now. You’re not even getting any better.”

My mind tells the gremlin to “shut up” but even my heart recognizes the lack of conviction in my words. I’ve been training for a 5k…for the last 4 months…and yes, I’m still at the very beginning of the running intervals (2 minutes running then 2 minutes walking). I love the idea of running, but am less than thrilled with the reality of it. This is my plateau and the gremlin seems to be winning.

What am I meant to learn from this plateau? What do I need to overcome to move to the next level? And even if I can master control of my gremlin, overcome the negative thoughts, and believe in my abilities, do I still have the motivation to persevere?

There are many plateaus that we encounter in life; trying to lose weight (been there), on our career path (yep that one too), exercising (running – the bane of my existence at the moment), relationships that stagnate (overcame that one), and feeling “stuck” in the counseling process.

Once a client myself (all good therapist must know what the couch feels like), I hit that plateau…it was like running on the treadmill…working hard and getting nowhere fast. Frustrated, defeated, and close to giving up, my therapist introduced a different technique that helped me to get on a new path, with a nice change of scenery.

My therapeutic perspective is a strategic combination of biopsychosocial theory, energy psychology, and attachment theory with a hint of traditional psychodynamic perspective. This allows me the freedom to pull different “techniques” from my toolbox, when I need to help a client get “unstuck”. Every school of thought proposes a different approach to plateaus. What is your theoretical and practical perspective?

What tools are most appropriate in your practice to tackle these plateaus? If you are struggling with these questions, seek out guidance from your consultant or mentor. If your tools are scarce, search for workshop or training opportunities (provided by reputable and well qualified instructors) which will fill your toolbox.

Training for my 5k takes practice, determination, patience, and pursuit of a goal more important than listening to my gremlin. Providing therapy takes the same level of perseverance, and as the expert, it is your responsibility to assist your clients in overcoming the plateau. When I’m running (yes, I grudgingly put my running gear on and do it despite my gremlin), I keep in mind there are 3 types of people who see me on a run; runners – who think “that is hard stuff, glad I finished my run”, non-runner spectators – who think “that looks really hard, glad I’m not out there”, and those running on the same path – who think “this is really hard, let’s go get it!”

What kind of therapist are you – spectator or runner?

Lauren Somers holds a LPCC in the State of California, a Doctorate in Counseling Psychology, certification in EFT (energy psychology), and over 19 years of experience in delivering counseling to adolescents and adults in individual and group settings. She hosts a private practice in the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area where she endeavors to understand her client’s story and weaves the traditional therapeutic modalities with a bit of shamanic healing, energy psychology, and mindfulness to bring about growth and healing.

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