I have two very distinct experiences with therapy;
The First – I was a fresh college drop out. I was having weird PTSD-like symptoms about leaving school, about my family/friend’s reactions to me leaving school and getting a grip on what the hell I was going to do instead. I was also being bullied about wanting to be an art student (but really). I was having a hard time wrapping my head around life as a clueless 18-year-old, but apparently I had enough sense to reach out for help.
I didn’t necessarily tell my parents that I was seeing a therapist.
It was very clinical and cliche. I sat on the type of couch that you’d expect to sit on. I colored in pictures of smiley faces indicating which emotion I felt that day. It was less than helpful. It was dry & empty – every appointment.
I somewhat feel bad for that therapist, thinking back. There is no way that she knew how to help me.
So I stopped going.
But then there’s the second experience with therapy.
I started going back to a (different) therapist one year ago. Up until recently, I saw her once a week. She is everything that I need right now; her office is decorated like a Pottery Barn bedroom. There is no grumpy, middle-aged woman behind sliding glass waiting to take your co-pay (it’s automatically deducted)… Which I’m not sure why this is such a big deal to me, but it’s the little things. There’s no woman behind a glass at all – I walk right in like I was being expected. The atmosphere is a big deal. It’s inviting and clean and it smells good – all of which makes me feel safe before I even say a word.
My therapist listens to me. Like, actually listens with her ears and her eyes. She hears me. She repeats back to me what she thinks I meant and she says it way better than I do. She understands the words that spill out of my mouth as I mindlessly pick apart the strings on her blue Pottery Barn pillow. She doesn’t say anything about me doing that, either.
It’s different from talking to a friend or a significant other, because she is (actually) trained to pick up on certain words I say. Or what I do with my eyes or hands when I say them. She points out patterns, inconsistencies in emotions and she makes sense of all of it. All things that I was having a really hard time doing on my own.
She doesn’t write things down, she just remembers. Week after week, she remembers the specifics. Do you have someone in your life that just remembers details without you insisting that they do?
I started going to a therapist again, because I so desperately needed a voice in my life that wasn’t a voice in my life. I needed to talk without being judged. Without seeing the look on someones face like they couldn’t wait for me to finish my sentence so that they could insert their opinion. I needed to be honest, without being looked down upon. I needed to feel safe. I was willing to risk getting another shitty therapy experience for all of that in return. But what I did end up getting was so much more.
She helps me to see things that I in no way would have been able to see on my own.
She helps me to form my words so that I can build my own opinion on things.
She helps me to work with all of the things that I already have within me to use those to get through x, y and z.
So in short, despite the fact that my relationship with my therapist is reserved for Monday evenings at 7 with a $25 co-pay; it doesn’t matter. It helps me, a lot. And I’d venture to say that everyone needs a (good) therapist. Whether your life is in turmoil or not.
I’ve learned more about myself through therapy than I have in all 24 years of my life.
Since therapy has helped me tremendously – I’ve compiled a list of why you maybe need it too.
- You get one full hour of judgment-free talk. Maybe your life isn’t in turmoil right now, but if it ever was before – you’d know that getting your head above water for one full, uninterrupted hour is everything.
- Investing in therapy is investing in yourself. I think of it as a gym membership. I don’t get my nails done, but if I did I suppose it’d be similar to that too.
- You can’t go wrong. You can’t be wrong. You will never be told that you’re wrong. I don’t think they’re allowed to tell you that – and it’s something that people need… to know that what they’re feeling isn’t wrong. That what they want isn’t wrong. That what they don’t want isn’t wrong.
- It’s discipline, consistency and accountability. Every damn Monday I’m there. Whether I felt like going or not, I go. It’s scheduled in. It keeps me on-top of my life.
- It prevents you from vomiting on your friends. Instead of dumping everything on your friends or family or spouse, you are provided with a time and place that’s reserved for all of that. There are definitely consequences to spilling on your friends… it may effect your relationship, your reputation, your sanity. So instead of bottling it up because you can’t trust anyone, you can talk to a therapist instead.
- It’s humbling. I see a therapist and I’m not ashamed. I’m not broken or weird or anything of that sort. In fact, I’m proud of myself… for admitting that I needed a little help. That the way life was, wasn’t okay. And that it’s up to me to do something about it.
- It forces you to be a researcher of good. This is one of my themes for 2019 – to become a researcher of good. Something happens, in therapy, when you’re talking about heavy shit – week after week. You somehow want to come back the next week with a baby praise report. Something, anything to insist that this whole therapy thing is working. That you’re getting better. So by default you look for things that are going well in your life. Which is a ridiculously healthy way to live your life.
- My therapist didn’t fix any of my challenges for me… She didn’t move any mountains for me. She gave me really practical tools and equipped me with truths about myself so that I can move the mountains for my self.
If nothing else, therapy has empowered me to live a life that I’m more powerful in. I understand that not all therapists are as amazing as mine – hence me including my first therapy experience in this post… But these are all reasons and hopefully inspiration to seek out an amazing therapist.