For a moment imagine that you are standing alone at the entrance of a deep hole, a gloomy dark chasm. Imagine in your mind's eye staring into a terrifying and ominous void…a murky hole! The opening is indistinguishable, and it's intimidating. What is even worse is that this sinister cavity, this deep crater has a severe tug on you. You are being sucked in.

In contradiction, although this place seems frightening, you feel convinced that you should enter. Somehow you understand that although this place seems grossly terrifying, you MUST enter in order to be free; free from depression, free from fear and mental and physical pain and liberated from the traumas that can haunt you. This damp and foreboding place represents your past and the pull is all you have experienced in your life that causes you pain. You are now getting ready to enter what I call the “Gauntlet of the Abyss in Therapy!”

This is a journey that most people should never travel alone. In my experience those who attempt this unaided find that nothing has changed. They needed someone to make the voyage with them; someone who is unbiased, someone who is experienced, someone who understands.

Those who require therapy need a guide, an expert to hold their hands; someone who lets them know that “It's okay.” I'm here…I won't let you go…Lets look at the past together to make the future a better place.”

This therapeutic expedition is not only dangerous for the person making the journey, but it is also a perilous, hazardous thoroughfare to travel for the ill-equipped, misinformed, and untrained therapist. The consequences for the unprepared or inexperienced therapist can be grave. The therapist themselves can experience apprehension, seduction, betrayal, role-reversal, depression, anxiety, fear and trepidation in their own lives. As I write this editorial I am sitting in Brooklyn staring at a copy of the New York Daily News. On the cover is a story of a schizophrenic man, harboring a 17-year grudge, who was charged with the meat-cleaver murder of an Upper East Side therapist. Beyond these extreme tragedies, one thing, beyond the shadow of a doubt is assured; only by walking through ‘The Abyss' can change take place for those seeking therapy. In psychotherapy, safety and trust are the walls that contain the feelings you share.
The entrance to the Abyss begins when the patient opens up in treatment. This experience can be life changing and empowering. The therapist seeks to help the patient develop an understanding about the problem(s), they are experiencing in their life and assist the client in making positive changes in their lives while promoting self awareness of mental and emotional issues through counseling and analysis of their experiences and their perceptions.

This dark place is often painful and confusing and no matter how hard you try the pull becomes more intense. You feel the pull as you relive your relationships, your encounters, your traumas and your pains. In fact, this is often how you know when you are on the right road…it hurts! Once you stand at the opening of the abyss the pull will happen whether you are ready or not, and it will impact all the choices you make in the future.

Perhaps as you read this article you are feeling a pull in your own life and are standing at the door to the abyss. Perhaps you have an issue that occurred in your life that you have not dealt with and would like to, but you are afraid. It's okay to be afraid. It's normal to be fearful of something you have never experienced. The most important thing that needs to happen as you experience the pull is to realize that you need help. Perhaps your family or friends have recognized a pull in your life and realize that they cannot help you or, perhaps, you know they cannot help you. It is scary to know that there is something wrong in your life and not know where to turn. You may feel confused about what to do or where to begin. The therapist who is equipped for the journey knows you cannot do it alone. Seeking help by finding a therapist to join you is a sure sign that you are at, or, standing at the entry to the abyss. A good therapist knows that whenever you began the healing process, it is important for the therapy to start wherever you currently are in dealing with any problems in your life.

Your past experiences impact the choices you make about the people who surround you; it can cause feelings of anger, anxiety, fear, inadequacy, guilt, depression and shame. It can leave your self esteem at ground zero. This dark place can leave one feeling helpless, which is why is so important to choose someone you can trust to go on this journey with you. Choosing a therapist you trust and feel safe with is mandatory and important for every step you take along the way. This experience will eventually affect you in every area of your life, physically, spiritually, mentally and emotionally.

The experience of the journey is different for everyone. After all, it is about your life. Your life is as different and unique as your fingerprint. The journey, if not recognized and dealt with, can destroy you. The harder you pull away the stronger the suction. It does not matter that other's say you have a problem; nothing will change until you decide that it is a problem or feel “the pull” …You feel the heat or see the light.

The counseling experience itself is one in which the therapist is on a journey along with the patient. It is like walking through a dark tunnel. The client is the only one who can tell the therapist about themselves, and what experiences they have had in their life. The tunnel or ‘The Abyss' represents their life. The client leads the way by honestly and openly discussing their life. The therapist shares the walk with the client and encourages the client to face issues that they are dealing with. As a therapist my job is to walk with you through your abyss.

In my next article I'll discuss, from my perspective and from 24 years of counseling experience, how change happens in therapy. I will take you through ‘The Abyss’!

Comments and Feedback are welcome.

Author's Bio: 

Dr Sheafe has over 24 years of clinical experience in marriage counseling & family therapy. She specializes in: substance abuse treatment, drug addiction, sex therapy and couples counseling. She can assist with recovery from emotional, verbal, physical and drug abuse. Dr Sheafe is considered an expert on domestic violence and issues related to childhood trauma and porn addiction. She has worked with thousands of clients throughout the United States & Europe. She States, “I offer solid, down-to-earth guidance!” She is called upon by litigators as an ‘Expert Witness’ for issues related to sexual trauma. She offers phone counseling or in-person visits for those living in South East Virginia. For complete information please visit: or email her at
Sadie@Dr Most Insurance accepted.

Dr Sheafe is a Board Certified Clinical Sexologist, American Board of Sexology Diplomate, and Licensed Clinical Social Worker.
She is certified in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. Currently, she serves as the Chairman, Virginia Legislative Committee: National Association Social Work, (NASW) and Virginia, Regional Representative for Hampton Roads, Virginia; Member, American Board of Clinical Sexologists and the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT). She has been appointed to the Mental Health Advisory Council Board for the city of Portsmouth, Virginia and was elected to the State Board of Directors for NASW. She is currently the Chairman of the Department of Veterans Affairs Social Work Professional Standards Board, Virgina and an Adjunct Professor at Norfolk State University in the Doctoral and Masters Degree Programs for Social Work.