Don't Knock It Until You Try It
Posted by Madeleine Harrington for BounceBack.com
It seems that over the years, somewhere along the way the notion of therapy was distorted into an unappealing, nightmarish image that somehow lingered in our lexicon enough to produce the common stereotype of therapy that could not be farther from the truth. Those infamous six words, "how does that make you feel?" have been padded down so deeply into our consciousness that it's difficult to think of anything but the stern, spectacle-wearing therapist peering over a desk while we recline vulnerably on a large leather couch.
It seems that this cliché has garnered a long list of reasons (or perhaps excuses) through time that have made us avoid, almost fear, seeking this kind of help: therapists are invasive and judgmental, they force you to talk about your feelings for hours on end, they show you ink blots and ask you what they remind you of, they ask you about your mom even if it's irrelevant, they're a bunch of all-around emotionless freaks who can't respond to any statement without asking that dreaded question.
I would like to offer five reasons to break this picture, confirm the fact that, as a well experienced therapy attendee, therapy is none of the above. Rather, it is a productive way to channel your emotional energy, something you should try at least once in your life, however many times you might have insisted to others and to yourself that "it's just not for me."
1. Anonymity- while friends can be supportive, they might sometimes slip up, perhaps leaking something you told them in confidence, especially if they are, or have mutual friends with, your ex. Therapists are sworn to confidentiality. Unless you are consistently alluding to taking destructive or self-destructive actions, anything you say during your session will never be repeated again. Unless you want it to be.
2. Control- how many situations do you have where you have the opportunity to talk about yourself and only yourself? A therapy session is an uninterrupted span of time where you get to talk about you and only you. And I know what you're thinking and the answer is no, it is not selfish to have the urge to talk about yourself for an hour or so every week. It is healthy, and it is also very human. After all, there's always a lot to say.
3. Consistency- a good friend told me recently that throughout her difficult childhood, her therapist was the only adult figure in her life that was always present when she needed her to be. Sometimes, when our lives feel like they're unraveling, and we can't seem to get a solid grasp on anything, a little sense of predictability can do wonders.
4. Support- a therapist is on your side. They might not always agree with what you say, some might even offer a rebuttal, simply to make you think, but they are always on your team. They want to help you, to see you happy, to help you find the light at the end of the tunnel. They strive for you to become reacquainted with your self-worth, and are there to guide you through finding it, no matter how long and winding the process may be.
5. No pressure- in my experience "on the couch," I have never once heard a therapist ask me how something made me feel. When I went to therapy, I would go through many sessions without once mentioning my emotions, or my childhood, or anything that therapists are believed to prod at. Most of the time, we would just have conversations, mutual, benign yet engaging interactions, a dialogue that could have just as easily occurred in a restaurant or coffee shop. I felt, miraculously enough, like a human talking to another human.
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Madeleine is a graduate of SUNY Purchase who believes that good writing starts with telling a story you feel uncomfortable talking about.