I love therapy. However, this hasn’t always been the case.
I was raised–as so many of us are–to vilify the practice; I rejected professional help in favor of spending solitary nights alone, attempting to quiet the troubled thoughts that were raging through my mind. I’m not convinced that I would have ever sought therapy had I not endured a difficult breakup during my junior year of high school. Five years after that initial visit, I’ve maintained a fairly regular schedule of appointments, despite living in multiple cities and exploring different styles of therapy.
What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘therapy’? Do you conjure up the antiquated image of a patient reclining in a leather chaise, therapist seated at a safe distance, with notepad in hand? Though a popularized association (thankfully, we’re likely to only see this image in Mad Men reruns), the notion of a vapid patient-client relationship is mostly a thing of the past. Moreover, while the Freudian method of treatment might still be in practice, there are so many other styles of therapy available that this needn’t be a point of concern for someone seeking assistance. Common therapy styles include cognitive-behavioral (CBT), psychodynamic, interpersonal, group, and many more. Each offers a particular approach and accompanying technique(s); it is incumbent upon the client and potential therapist to discuss and explore these different therapies before making a commitment. These days, therapists and their clients build a special rapport–one that encourages complete openness and non-judgment.
Even if you don’t harbor any negative associations toward clinical therapy, you might find that you don’t need or want to invest your time in the work. I’m here to tell you that anyone–yes, anyone–can benefit from therapy. You certainly don’t have to be in crisis to benefit from a therapy session. Have you ever sought advice from a friend or relative, only to have him or her offer you a subjective opinion, often tinged with self-interest? Therapy is different: a qualified and reputable therapist can offer an objective opinion to your issue, and there are never ulterior motives hidden in their advice. Furthermore, the practice in itself is therapeutic. Taking time to externalize minor or significant issues can help one form perspective and understanding, or brainstorm ways to cope with life’s tribulations.
With so many years of therapy under my belt, I honestly cannot see a time in my life when I won’t see a therapist. At times, the spaces between appointments may grow; there may also be periods of time when I’ll benefit from more frequency. While CBT is currently my therapy of choice, I may decide to experiment with other techniques as my needs evolve over time. One thing is certain: my commitment to self-reliance and improvement is something I’m proud of. With therapy, I can see my own personal growth and evolution.
No matter your stage in life, I encourage you to explore therapy options in your area. Here are some of the different approaches:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: This approach seeks to identify and change the cognitive or emotional patterns that result in negative behaviors. The therapist helps analyze the problematic beliefs and provides solutions using what is within one’s control. Such techniques might include journaling, role-playing, meditation, and relaxation techiques.
Psychodynamic: similar to Psychoanalysis, this approach delves into conflicts in the unconscious for problems manifesting in reality. Techniques like free association and discussion of early childhood memories are involved.
Interpersonal: A short-term approach for depression resulting from interpersonal challenges. The therapist helps analyze the situation, provides non-judgmental listening, and prescribes future behaviors to break away from the negative patterns–gradually lessening the intervention to a point where the patient can make healthy decisions independently.
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Photo: Victoria Nevland via Flickr