Therapy: Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze?
What comes to mind when you think of therapy? Do you think of a god-like tabula rasa figure silently taking notes as you narrate your dreams?
Hmm.. not sure what is the point. I’m not that narcissistic to think my dreams mean something.
Or, maybe you think of therapy as this:
A new (more expensive) place where you and your partner can have the same old fight.
Seems pointless? We can do that at home for free. Also, a therapist might side with my partner and make things worse for me.
Or is therapy the place where someone is just going to find things for you to cry about?
Is this really the best use of my time? Also, sounds possibly unhealthy to dig into old shit I haven’t worried about in years.
Maybe therapy is where you learn all the ways in which you are fucked up.
Wow, hurtful! And why would I do that to myself? I struggle enough as it is.
Honestly, what’s the point of therapy anyways?
If you’ve ever thought any of those questions or have any of those ideas about therapy, I get it. Therapy has been shrouded in a lot of secrecy and stigma for a long time. And that has led to a lot of misconceptions around therapy.
So, what is therapy for?
What I like to say is therapy is a place where you can go to develop a healthier relationship with yourself and others.
Therapy is your emotional gym. Your therapist is your trainer.
You are the one who comes in with your goals, and your therapist helps you design a personalized treatment plan to meet those goals.
The first step in starting any therapy program is similar to working with a personal trainer to design your personal fitness routine.
We start by asking “What are your goals?” — you are in charge. You know what you want your life to look like. Sometimes these goals might be “I want to be happier” “I want to be less stressed” “I want to understand my pattern in relationships” etc. Since it’s your program, it has to be designed around your goals. So this is step one.
Step two is looking at “What are the obstacles to reaching those goals?” Sometimes the obstacles are external. And sometimes they are internal. And here’s where it gets a little deep.
When we are trying to change things about ourselves and our lives, we have to acknowledge that we don’t know what we don’t know.
So often we live our lives around the pain and trauma from our pasts. We develop coping skills to protect us from further pain. Over time we sometimes mistake those adaptations for our personalities.
We sometimes get so used to our old habits, behaviors, and ways of being that we don’t realize -they might not be working for us anymore.
Sometimes the only difference between success and failure is the willingness to look at what’s not working. You cannot make long-term change without a well-laid plan.
Having an outsider’s perspective to shed some light on areas that we might have overlooked is part of the value of therapy.
Therapy is a safe place where you can reflect on your behaviors, thoughts, and patterns. A therapist is not there to give you advice, but to hold up a mirror so you can see yourself more clearly.
Give yourself an opportunity to make a better plan for change by understanding what your blocks are in the first place. Then you can decide whether or not your habits are still working for you. If you need a new set of skills, your therapist — like a good trainer — can help provide you with resources and support to get them.
If I have interested you in therapy :) check out these links for some awesome directories where you can start looking for the mental health trainer that works for you!
And, follow me on here or check out my socials for future posts on healthy relationships and mental health.
Kristal DeSantis, LMFT, CCTP is the author of STRONG: A Relationship Field Guide for the Modern Man (available for pre-order November 2022)
Follow my instagram @atxtherapist or on TikTok @atx_therapist or visit my website: www.strong.love