Why Go to Therapy, Anyway?
Why me, Demi Lovato and other mental health advocates believe in its magical powers.
Sometimes the silence is deafening it’s so loud. It is the sound of no one having a real conversation. And research shows that this nation is suffering mightily and in need of some good old fashioned counseling.
Writer Ann Lamott once wrote, “All you can do for someone in crisis is show up, and that feels woefully inadequate.” But Lamott adds, “when you do, it can radically change everything.”
You’ve shown up here for some reason, which I applaud, but most of you probably won’t ever do more than read this and shrug off the idea of counseling. You may never know how just sitting and talking with a professional on a fairly regular basis might radically alter the trajectory of your life.
I understand your resistance. I’m the daughter of two therapists and even I can’t stomach the idea some days. The thought that therapy, ugh…talking, talking and more talking, is the answer, is maddening as fuck; it’s so much WORK. And if my parents were such great talkers how did I end up like this? You know, with issues as big as the State of the Union.
Joking aside, my therapist parents did teach me this: To function at the top of your game, or sometimes to get back in the game, you need someone — not a friend or a partner or a co-worker — to listen to you and to respond with what can be some very uncomfortable questions. That’s it — the miracle of psychotherapy, as my dad likes to say. And it truly could be a miracle if more people had access/could afford it and were educated on it’s benefits. (Demi Lovato is one person doing her share to see that that happens.)
Why? Because now, more than any other time in history, we are not using one of our greatest resources — quality conversation. And because we’re not talking face to face, candidly enough, we’re feeling depressed, anxious, angry, disconnected, lonely and frustrated.
Most of our everyday lives have become solo pursuits — we work and commute with headphones on, we text instead of call; we work in silos, often emailing instead of talking. We like and browse and scroll. We bark out questions to Siri and order things without ever speaking to a human. None of that is so bad, in itself, except that it leaves less opportunity for conversations that really touch or transform us in any way.
When you think of therapy as an antidote to our tech-obsessed, transactional world, you can see why it provides the help so many of us seek out in pill form.
The writers of the book Crucial Conversations describe the right conversations as transformational…full of startling discoveries that hook you and leave you wanting to know, do and create more genius even interactions. When we value conversations enough to call them crucial, even the most obvious excuses for not having them start sounding ridiculous. These are the excuses I run into most often:
- I just don’t have time for therapy. I can’t tell my co-workers or my boss that I need to leave early or take time off for therapy. A whopping 85 percent of people, according to a study in the U.K., reported that their colleagues would not even be open to hearing that they had mental health issues. In a U.S. study, 21 percent of employees with disabilities would not disclose them to an employer fearing they would be discriminated against. Fight that stigma with every once of energy you have left. You are worth it.
- “What would I say, anyway? I have people to talk to.” For ease and relatability, I’m going to blame that faulty logic on our pervasive use of social media. I have yet to hear of a gnarly problem being solved on Instagram or Facebook. It’s a place to vent or learn, but not to grow. Therapy, on the other hand, involves two people, not one person and a post. The back and forth, the listening and thinking, that’s the part of therapy that’s transformative.
- The last of the ‘big three’ excuses for not seeking out therapy is probably the most difficult to solve. It’s FINDING A THERAPIST. If you don’t have an HR department or an insurance carrier to call, find an advocacy group online that seems to describe the particular problem you are dealing with: teenage depression, parenting a child with autism, suicidal thoughts, disordered eating or chronic pain. Whatever it is, Google search truly is your friend. Your next best friend is the phone. Yes, calling and speaking with a real person. This can be tough, not only because you prefer texting and emailing but because the list of therapists you find will be busy, be in session and may not even have time to see you. But push on. Keep at it. Keep calling. Keep asking yourself: Would I rather live with this problem for the next year or would I rather spend the next year talking about it and solving it?
Bingo. There’s your answer. The quality of your life comes down to the quality of the conversations you are having and the kinds of people you are communicating with. When you get honest, start to talk about your real feelings and put your problems front and center, you are leveling up.
As this country nears a crisis point in our mental health issues, it is no one else’s duty but our own to take responsibility for leveling up our conversations. And often, that means getting ourselves into therapy or at least talking about how truly shitty we feel. That is where we will begin to not just survive but thrive, don’t you agree? Now we’re talking.
Note: to promote counseling as a positive means of tackling our mental health crisis, Demi Lovato will begin offering counseling resources before her concerts in 2018. Other resources I like that you can find online include:
Sick Not Weak (@heylandsberg on Twitter)
The Mighty Site (@themightysite on Twitter
Crisis Text Line 24/7 help for people in crisis via text
Follow me on Twitter @dbrodey for more resources.
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