Therapy — What It Is, What It Isn’t, What It Means to Do It

In anoth­er jour­nal, some­one react­ed to a sug­ges­tion that he seek ther­a­py as if that were a ter­ri­ble insult. It was obvi­ous that he did­n’t and would­n’t con­sid­er that sug­ges­tion seriously.

Ther­a­py’s for crazy/unstable people
I’ve cer­tain­ly heard “you need ther­a­py!” or some sim­i­lar state­ment tossed at some­one as an insult. It implies insta­bil­i­ty, insan­i­ty, etc.

If we, as a soci­ety, had a health­i­er atti­tude towards men­tal health in gen­er­al, we would­n’t even under­stand that kind of insult. (Of course, if we were health­i­er, then “you’re gay!” and “you run like a girl” would­n’t car­ry any weight, either, but that’s a rant for anoth­er day.)

Ther­a­py is one of many good tools. Don’t refuse to use it because of some out­dat­ed notion that it’s for “crazy people.” 

I’ve done lots of ther­a­py with lots of dif­fer­ent ther­a­pists. Indi­vid­ual, cou­ples, fam­i­ly, group—you name it. 18 years, off and on, of seek­ing heal­ing, self-knowl­edge, and bet­ter rela­tion­ships. Obvi­ous­ly, I’m not ashamed of that fact. I’m stronger and health­i­er as a result. My fam­i­ly and rela­tion­ships are health­i­er, as well.

Ther­a­py isn’t about some­one “fix­ing” you
I look at it just like going to a phys­i­cal ther­a­pist to help recov­er from an injury. The ther­a­pist does­n’t hand out heal­ing. She does help you go through exer­cis­es that help you to rebuild mus­cle, regain flex­i­bil­i­ty, and oth­er­wise heal from what­ev­er hap­pened. You have to do the work your­self, though. She’s just a facilitator.

Why pay some­body to talk to me? I have friends for that
Those friends are part of your net­work of rela­tion­ships, rather than being an unbi­ased observ­er. They aren’t trained facil­i­ta­tors, either. (And if they are, they know it’s uneth­i­cal to take peo­ple they know as clients.)

Find­ing the right therapist
Find­ing the right psy­chother­a­pist can be more dif­fi­cult than find­ing the right phys­i­cal ther­a­pist. Some peo­ple feel more com­fort­able with a ther­a­pist of a par­tic­u­lar gen­der. Oth­ers may want one who shares their reli­gious beliefs.

Screen­ing a pos­si­ble ther­a­pist should involve ask­ing cer­tain ques­tions to make it less like­ly that you’ll be see­ing some­one whol­ly inap­pro­pri­ate for you. For instance, I ask about the ther­a­pist’s atti­tude towards homo/bisexuality, polyamory, pagan­ism, and home­school­ing. I’m not going to jus­ti­fy my life to a ther­a­pist, so I have no desire to see some­one who is going to try to con­vince me that I’m fun­da­men­tal­ly flawed.

Of course, some things have to be judged in per­son. And, yes, some­times even ther­a­pists will lie. 

Use your head. If you walk into the ther­a­pist’s office to see lots of reli­gious stuff around, you prob­a­bly aren’t in a place that’s going to be very pos­i­tive about pagan­ism, no mat­ter what some­one said on the phone. Walk out.

There’s a full spec­trum, of course. I actu­al­ly left one ther­a­pist because she was too “out there” for me, too new-agey. Anoth­er one had a pret­ty strong “men are bad” vibe going on. I did­n’t have a prob­lem with her being a les­bian, but she seemed to have a prob­lem with me being mar­ried to a man. Not cool.

Any­way, if you don’t “click” in the first ses­sion or two, move on. But do move on to anoth­er ther­a­pist. Don’t give up until you’ve achieved your aims.

After you’ve found your therapist
Any ther­a­pist who does­n’t sit down with you to plan what you want to work on and what you want to achieve isn’t worth what­ev­er kind of shin­gle she’s hang­ing out. That plan should have con­crete mile­stones in it. “I’m bet­ter” isn’t con­crete. “I haven’t explod­ed at any­body in a month” is better.

Some­times you don’t know exact­ly what you want. Maybe you just aren’t hap­py, or things just aren’t work­ing out the way you’d planned. A good ther­a­pist will help you fig­ure out what you want, with­out try­ing to impose his own agen­da on you.

How long?
I don’t believe in being in ther­a­py for the rest of your life, either. Go to deal with an issue, achieve what you want, then go on.

Cyn is Rick's wife, Katie's Mom, and Esther & Oliver's Mémé. She's also a professional geek, avid reader, fledgling coder, enthusiastic gamer (TTRPGs), occasional singer, and devoted stitcher.
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