You can’t start a sentence with the phrase ‘In therapy today…’ without your conversational partner immediately wondering (if they don’t know already) why you’re in therapy, or what luggage you bring with you. That’s where inflection, body language and facial expressions come out to play. However, as words often do, these three come with biases and judgements. But as someone who attends therapy on a weekly basis, I’m realizing that despite many people’s preconceived ideas about what therapy means, maybe more people should be in it.
We all deserve a trusted individual who can help us through problems that come up in life.
Unfortunately, we all run into troubling situations at one point or another. Whether it’s a toxic friendship you just can’t shake, the death of a parent or simply someone to talk to about major life changes, it’s helpful to have someone who has the expertise to talk constructively about each of them. And in fact, we all deserve a person to help us work through these issues. While everyone has their family and friends to vent, that doesn’t mean they don’t have bias. It can be really rewarding to tell your friends about a particularly vexing issue. But if all you take away from that conversation is affirmation of your own viewpoint — a therapist might be able to offer you more.
We each seek emotional support in our own ways. What I prefer in therapy is much different than anyone else. I like to be challenged, to talk about my problems in a way that forces me to look at them as issues that can be solved. That, however, is by no means the only approach. Talking with a therapist can allow you to become comfortable enough with someone to address the big elephants in the room even if you have chosen to avoid them for much of your life.
Therapy is whatever you want it to be, expected or not.
Unlike what you see in most films, most therapy sessions don’t take place lying down on a long couch while musing on the nature of your dreams. This isn’t Freud. What’s so powerful about therapy is its transient nature. You could spend a few months with a therapist discussing the sources of your anxiety and different coping mechanisms. Fast forward a few weeks and your next discussion could be about grief or a fear of commitment.
And often, in my experience, the most rewarding part of therapy is never what I expect. It’s not that someone analyzes my every emotion and action and tells me what I’m subconsciously trying to say. Instead, it’s someone gently pointing out an illogical thought that has someone gotten wedged in my psyche. Let me give you an example:
In therapy, I often speak to my therapist about the nature of grief — what it means to be in the process of grieving, and how I’ll ever know if I’m finally okay with the death of my mother. And as we talk about this and the difficulties of discussing these issues without crying, I tell her that I really don’t like crying. Her response? Immediately to tell me that most people don’t like it.
This is not a surprise. Obviously many people don’t like crying. But I explain to her that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it per say, I don’t think crying makes me weak. So, we verbally spar about what it is about crying that makes me so uncomfortable. Eventually we reach a strange notion that for me, crying is upsetting because I can’t express myself. I don’t like feeling out of control. In other words, the physical process of crying means I can’t speak, which in turn makes me feel vulnerable.
And to me, these two things aren’t mutually exclusive. For some reason, I believe that you should be able to cry and express your feelings eloquently simultaneously. Which… is kind of silly. The whole point of crying, my therapist clarified, is that it’s an uncontrollable emotional outburst. In fact, she doesn’t know anyone who can cry and give a campaign rally speech at the same time. We laugh. This illogical thought has controlled my perception of crying for as long as I can remember — that I should be able to control my speech while crying. And now that I reflect on it, it’s a bit illogical.
That’s not to say it can’t be incredibly frustrating.
Therapy is a truly wonderful and amazing thing. It can help you suss out weird illogical thoughts, face your own self-doubt and allow you to live your life in a more open and honest way. But… it still be frustrating. Everyone deserves a therapist because solving problems that can be easily quantified. You might not ever know if you’re ready to leave. Grief and anxiety? There are coping mechanisms and markers along the way to show your progress but there’s no one size fits all solution. And the very nature of that can be hard to swallow.
Maybe you reach an impasse with your therapist. Perhaps your therapist moves towns. Introducing your life and baggage to someone new is hard and comes with its own challenges. It might make you wonder whether or not it’s worth it to continue. The financial aspect of therapy is another less-addressed problem. When you’re counting up rent, utilities and yoga membership fees, therapy can start to add up. Luckily there are inexpensive therapy options for those who want to start talking but can’t afford it.
- First, call your health insurance provider and see what is and isn’t covered
- Then check out local graduate schools, often times, students will often discounted rates that come with supervision.
- If you’re a student, look at options from your school.
- Research applications like Seven Cups of Tea or BetterHelp, local support groups and organizations in your area and see if any work for you
But ultimately, therapy is for everyone, whenever you need it, however you need it. And everyone deserves a person that will listen to you without judgement.