If you’ve ever thought about seeking therapy for yourself or a loved one, you may have wondered what it means to be in therapy. For sure, there is stigma attached to the word therapy, but it seems that as the world becomes a more stressful and chaotic place, therapy is becoming more normalized and acceptable. I often encounter people who don’t know much about therapy and have questions regarding the process.
“Who belongs in therapy?” Well the answer is, anyone who wants to feel or do better than they are doing right this very minute. It seems to me that this probably applies to a large majority of people in the world. If you or someone you care about is struggling emotionally, therapy might be just the thing that could help them avoid from spiraling downward or could be the help needed to get out of the “stuck” situation they currently might be facing.
“Will I have to lay on a couch?” People often have their preconceived notions or assumptions about what goes on in a therapy room. The old fashioned image of an analyst jotting down notes while a patient lays on a couch throwing out free association still seems to be lingering, even just comically speaking. However, majority of clinicians out there are not practicing this way. Therapy has become a creative and highly interactive experience for the majority of clients today. The style and training of the particular therapist will often largely determine exactly the dynamic of the room but for the most part, clients report that therapy is an inviting and warm space to reflect upon past and present experiences to learn more about themselves and the world they perceive.
“Why can’t I just talk to my friend? Why do I have to pay someone to listen to me?” A therapist’s primary goal is to remain objective about what is discussed in the therapy room. This means that the therapist will always try their best not to pass judgment, blame, or incorporate their own personal feelings into those of the client in order to best serve them through an open lens. A friend or family member cannot do this, mostly because they love the person they are talking to (which is a great thing). Often times, a friend or family member may be somewhat involved in the issues at hand and therefore they are unable to keep their own thoughts and feelings out of the equation. This leaves the person struggling with the issues, open to the influence of other people’s feelings and not able to fully tune into themselves. For this reason, a therapist can be very helpful. They can serve as mirror to the client’s thoughts and feelings to help them discover a deeper truth within themselves. For some people, this is the first experience where they are able to feel their own feelings without the influences of family and/or friends.
“Why won’t my therapist tell me about his/her life?” Again this question relates to the therapist’s ability to remain objective and to the client’s ability to see the therapist as objective. If, for example, the client knows about the therapist’s strong religious or political beliefs then he/she may not want to tell their therapist about their own beliefs which may be in conflict with those of the therapist. Divulging personal information to the client will inhibit the client’s ability to see the therapist as objective and clouds the relationship and ultimately the potential progress of treatment.
“What will it feel like to be in therapy?” The answer to this question varies from person to person. Sometimes therapy can get harder before it gets easier as it may be the first time a person is talking about sensitive issues. Therapy is a process and it changes over time. Your relationship with your therapist is similar to other relationships in your life in that it takes time to develop, it can be experienced as very close or intimate, and can be quite influential. Some people look forward to going to therapy to “get things off of their chest,” while others have to push themselves to attend.
I often try to help people understand therapy as a luxury to yourself. The same way you may choose to exercise, get facials or haircuts, clean out your closet, or indulge in an ice cream sundae – it is something you are choosing to do for yourself so that you can feel better! And there is simply nothing wrong with that.
If you have questions that I did not cover, as there could be many, many, more – please feel free to reach out to me and I would be happy to address anything else.