Thursday, January 14, 2016

Misconceptions of Therapy

*Disclaimer: Every person has had different experiences with therapy, some good and others bad. I am just reflecting on my own experiences with therapy and the opinions I have encountered from others. There are also different types of therapy and approaches to psychology. As well as different temperaments of therapists and specialties that they might be better equipped to handle. Sometimes it can take time to find the right fit. 

Therapy. Counseling. 

Those two words bring up a lot of emotions for people. Some have had terrible experiences with it. It brings up nightmares that they have stored away and hoped to never relive again. Others have tried it for a time, and did not experience any lasting effect. Yet others, believe in it strongly, swear by it, and point people to it. 

Before going to therapy, I had this idea of what it might be like. I pictured a dark room, with a long leather chaise, and a therapist wearing circular glasses with a pad of paper and a pen in hand. I would be lying down, staring at the ceiling, as he asked me questions about my childhood.

I was pleasantly surprised. 

So I wanted to debunk a few misconceptions that people have about therapy. 

1. Therapists

They aren't all scary. They don't all wear glasses. They don't always ask endless questions. They don't always say, "How does that make you feel?"

I can't say that my experiences are like everyone else's, but as for me I found going to see a therapist to be a much more pleasant experience than I thought it would be. The office was comfortable and welcoming and a soothing environment to be in. Unfortunately, it is always uncomfortable trying to open up to a stranger about the experiences and struggles of your life. After a while, however, it felt like I was talking to a friend or mentor. Someone that was more knowledgeable than I was about life and the things I was going through, but could also lend comfort, a helping hand, and even encouragement.

2. What Therapy Involves

I thought there would be a lot of focus on my feelings and my childhood. I imagined having to reflect on the deepest secrets I had in my life and telling them to a stranger. I had no idea what we would talk about for an entire fifty minute session.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was plenty to talk about in that time period. That actually, it would fly by. Sometimes we don’t even have to talk about my problems, just the ins and outs of every day life as it happens. We talk about my mind, how it works, my personality and how it affects my decisions, feelings, thoughts, etc. I have learned more about the actual psychological explanations for feelings and my personality and the depression I struggle with. We talk about God and how my relationship with Him affects my entire life and view on these topics. 

We start the session with what I am comfortable covering or whatever is on my mind that day. We discuss the science behind SRI's and medication and depression. My therapist gives me articles to read and videos to watch and offers new research that has been uncovered in different areas of research. It is so much more than just talking about my problems. 

You might have had a really bad experience in the past at therapy. You might be scared to talk to a stranger about your struggles.

But I have come to strongly support therapy. It can be expensive, time consuming, emotionally exhausting, etc. But it is worth it. It is worth the effort to heal and get better. It is worth feeling uncomfortable to receive professional help. Just like you would go to a doctor for medical advice and help when you are feeling sick. You go to a therapist for help with mental health issues and when you need help that others cannot offer. It is okay to not be okay and reach out for help. That is why we have trained professionals to help in these circumstances. I believe that God gives these people gifts of healing, even encouragement and even for some wisdom in times of need. I think counseling can be a ministry that God can work through.

Therapy is nothing to be ashamed of. However, it is something that society has trained us to view as a result of weakness.

But I think it is brave to go to therapy, to seek healing, and to want to get better. Having the determination to not settle for just being okay and going through life with struggle and hardship weighing on your shoulders.

Your personal health is worth it. You are worth it. Seek healing. Therapy is a great way to find it.

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