Seeing a Therapist, Seeing Yourself
Coming Soon: Kathryn Beal’s Book, ‘How to Find a Great Therapist’
‘If you are just looking for someone to talk to, this book is not for you. Throw a rock and you will find a mediocre counselor who will gladly take your money, go through the motions of “listening” to you for an hour, week after week, and never encourage you to change.’ — Kathryn Beal in “How to Find a Great Therapist”
As Kathryn says in her new book, How to Find a Great Therapist (due out on May 23), it’s easy to find mediocre therapy. Get the name of any person with professional-sounding letters behind their name. Go to their office once a week, and trust them to lead you to greater happiness.
Therapy can be a passive process; it can make you feel like you’re doing something. I always felt worse afterward when I approached it that way. For many years, I gave up looking for help because I didn’t know how to find a person who would point out or even notice when I repeated my history.
What do you do when you’re ready for a more active experience? How do you find someone who will go down into the trenches of change with you?
Before self-knowledge, I resented therapy. I felt angry that I had to pay someone to spend time with me and listen to me — as if needing a therapist was a poor reflection on my self-worth.
It was a reflection, but not in the way I thought.
It reflected on the kind of people I had encountered in my life — those poor in authentic kindness and curiosity.
Going to therapy was about choosing to heal from the harm of a traumatic childhood. It was about believing I was worthy of investing my own time, money, attention, and self-love — and that I was worthy and capable of working with a great therapist.
Investing in Yourself
It took me a long time to realize that working with a therapist didn’t mean there was something wrong with me. It meant there was something right with me.
It meant that, in spite of everything I had been through, I had maintained an interest in who I was. It meant I still had the courage to change and the strength to learn to live life as myself. I had the determination to decide not to waste more time ghosting my true self to please other people.
Therapy is a relationship worth paying for. It’s worth putting in the time to find and work with a good therapist. If you have to pay someone to truly see you — to provide you with an example of what it’s like to be seen because you’ve never experienced such an example before (too many people haven’t) — do it.
Seeing a therapist isn’t just about “seeing a professional.” It’s about seeing yourself. It’s about doing whatever it takes to find another person who will do the work to truly see you, because such people are so rare in life.
Once I made that simple mind shift of realizing it wasn’t about me “seeing a therapist”— and that I could fire or say no to therapists who did a poor job of seeing me — it shifted my perceptions.
It shifted my ability to find good people to work with. In turn, it shifted my belief in other people to be able to do the same for themselves.
I used to avoid telling people to go to a professional when they came to me with their problems. When I didn’t know how to find a good therapist and all of my experiences with therapists were negative, unpleasant, and a repetition of my history, I couldn’t in good conscience tell others to go. I saw it as subjecting them to further abuse.
This belief only allowed other people to subject me to further abuse. It resulted in me trying to carry the weight of life for people who didn’t want to carry it for themselves.
A Great Therapist
Because I believed it was impossible to find a good therapist, I tried to play that role without training. I tried to be the all-patient, bottomless accepting, endlessly curious (or incurious, if that’s what the other person wanted) listener I believed the world needed.
This approach was neither helpful to me, nor to others. Trying to carry the weight of someone else’s problems for them only delays them from carrying their own weight.
It delayed me from taking responsibility for myself because I was looking for someone else to do the same for me.
I had no energy left to listen to myself when I poured all my energy into pleasing others. This included being a constant “empath” by reading the body language of those around me who chose not to honestly express themselves.
Neither a great therapist, a good friend, a caring family member, nor a close partner carries the weight of life for you.
They sit by you and support you while you build up the strength of your own curiosity. They sit with you as you pick up the stone of your grief and feel the weight of it. Then they send you home with it.
As you grow stronger, your grief becomes lighter. As your grief becomes lighter, you become more present in the world, more self-responsible, more able to create a life you truly want to live, and more happy.
Self-Knowledge Daily’s very own writer and editor, Kathryn Beal, has written her first book, How to Find a Great Therapist. If you’re ready to take action to be your best self, she’ll walk you through the steps of finding and working with a great therapist, avoiding the bad ones, and trusting yourself in the process of self-growth.
Amazon release date: May 23.