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 Don’t refuse to use it because of some outdated notion that it’s for “crazy people.”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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