Are you in therapy? Have you ever been in therapy? Or do you resist the very idea, maybe as something for other people or a waste of time and money entirely? If you’re in one of the first two groups, it’s always nice to see other members of the club. You aren’t the only one. We aren’t the only ones. If you’re part of the last, let’s talk a little about why therapy can be a good idea, even for you.
It’s certainly a bit of a sensitive topic for many, but therapists can provide an important source of support and healing in many different areas of life.
For some, therapy is a way of getting an outside view and some assistance with discrete issues they are facing. There may be a specific disturbing event or experience that you’re having trouble with, and a therapist can help you contextualize and process what’s happened or happening. Treatments and strategies are available for trauma that you may have endured, whether it’s being the victim of a crime or abuse, witnessing something terrible, or simply trying to navigate a potentially rocky period like a difficult medical diagnosis, childbirth, or divorce. Talking with friends can always be reassuring and helpful, but sometimes you need input from someone who isn’t involved and doesn’t have any preconceived ideas about the situation you are in. Therapy, whether single or group, has the ability to show you that you’re not alone and that you’re normal and that you can emerge on the other side, maybe by applying a few tools that you didn’t know about.
For others, therapy is part of treating specific disorders. You might know something isn’t quite right about the way your thoughts are going, or you’re struggling with issues from eating disorders or other forms of self-harm to simply being unable to stay focused at school or work. You might have a diagnosis, or you might not. Either way, therapy may not be the cure-all, but it’s often a more certain bet than trying to manage it entirely by yourself. That’s not to say that all therapists are going to be a good fit for you or will have the right approaches to help you manage, but if you find one who works with you well, the difference in your quality of life can be astoundingly positive. The answer might be medication or a particular treatment, or a reprogramming in how you think and respond to things, or simply having a sane voice to talk you through your continuing struggles.
And here’s something else to consider. You don’t necessarily need to have something you know or suspect is individually wrong with you to benefit from therapy. We live in difficult times and in a world where an awful lot of dysfunctional behaviors are considered perfectly normal. It’s entirely possible to think that you are rolling along just peachy, and that that horrible ex-boss wasn’t really that bad in the grand scheme of things, and that pandemic-quarantine life has been really good to you and your family. And you might be right! It can be powerful to learn that, and have it confirmed by an outsider. It can be even more powerful to learn how to articulate what you did to make it all work for you, so when you or someone you love face more challenging situations in the future, you know how to handle them consciously instead of instinctively. Or you might discover that what’s holding you together is a thin veneer, and having an established relationship with a therapist when things fall apart will make it so much easier to shore that up and fix it.
Therapy isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign that you’ve decided to hire someone and forge a professional relationship with them in order ensure your mental and emotional health are as optimal as they can be. That? That’s being an adult.