Therapy: A Clean Sweep of our Story

For those who have never been to therapy, the thought of bringing pain into the open may seem a bit intimidating or even scary. While reluctance to share our past or our vulnerabilities is understandable, Julie O’Brien, MA, LPC-Associate, Supervised by: Kerry Williamson, MA, LPC-S, LMFT-S, CST shares a helpful framework for thinking about the process of therapy, along with reassurance for taking the next step.
How many of you remember a show that was on back in the early 2000s called “CLEAN SWEEP”?  It was on HGTV and starred Peter Walsh, a guy famous for his organizational skills.  That show was the first of its kind, long before The Minimalists, or The Marie Kondo Method.
Peter and his team would come to a house after a homeowner’s friend or spouse sent in a video of how messy the house was, and they would do a “clean sweep” of the house. They would begin the decluttering process by taking everything out of the room they were working on, putting it out in the yard, and asking the homeowner to go through it, sorting it into piles of “KEEP, SELL and TOSS.” Every single thing was out in the open for the homeowner to look at, and then decide what was going in the trash, what was worth selling, and what was worth hanging on to.  The things that were important enough to keep were those things that were necessary, loved, or brought joy. CLEAN SWEEP was all about cleaning out the clutter and putting back only the things that really matter.
When we unpack our story in therapy, I like to think of it as dragging everything out into the open where we can see it, and then beginning to sort through it, in much the same way as that show.  We are digging up our past and taking time to remember the pain that we experienced and the pain we caused. We are acknowledging it to ourselves, and to someone we trust, our therapist. This can take time, but once we have unearthed the hard things, we are ready for the next step… getting rid of the stuff that no longer works for us, stuff that weighs us down.  Our resentments, our addictions, our hurtful behaviors, and the childhood wounds that are still causing us pain.

In the Bible, the writer of Hebrews says, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Heb. 12:10)

Just like cleaning out a house we’ve lived in for 20 years takes some time, cleaning out lifelong attitudes and habits is going to take some time. And just like those homeowners in Clean Sweep needed some extra help, sometimes we need a counselor, someone who is objective and can help point out our blind spots, to come alongside us in the process. We may drag everything out of our story onto the lawn and think, “Wow, that’s a lot of junk!  I really need to do something about that!” But recognizing the need for change and allowing the change to happen are two different things, and if we don’t accept some help sorting through and getting rid of stuff we no longer need, we will continue to be that junky house the HOA keeps sending letters to!

It can be difficult to be vulnerable and allow someone, even a therapist, to know our deepest secrets, but if we want to get better, we have to ask for help, because if we could have fixed this stuff in our lives on our own, we already would have. The good news is that the process of healing and the burden of change isn’t all on you. You are not alone. Your therapist is there to help. And even better, God is there to help! He has promised He will never leave you nor forsake you, and in the end, He is the One who brings the healing.

If you’ve been considering getting into therapy or going further on your road to healing, maybe it’s time to do a CLEAN SWEEP and get rid of the junk that is holding you back and cluttering up your life. Maybe it’s time to open up, get vulnerable, and assess your past so you can fill your life with things that will benefit you and bring you joy! If you’d like someone to guide and support you in that process, I’d love to help! If you are interested in scheduling a session with me or another therapist at ALCS, please contact our office.

Julie works with teens and adults struggling with grief, anxiety, depression, autism, trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), self-harm, addiction, suicidal ideation, betrayal, divorce recovery, difficulty bonding, broken relationships, and strained parent / child relationships.
Julie utilizes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Narrative Therapy to unearth hidden traumas and childhood wounds, and TBRI to address attachment needs and fear-based behaviors.
For specific questions, email Julie at