Who Needs Therapy?

This post is prompted by a comment/question responding to my last post on how to choose a therapist. The very relevant question, asked by “Pops,” was: “Who should see a therapist? These days we get therapy and medication for what would have been treated some time ago with a swift kick in the pants.”


I can’t disagree that therapy has become, in some circles, almost kitschy (“something that appeals to popular or lowbrow taste and is often of poor quality” –Merriam-Webster Online). In other circles, however, the prevailing sentiment is: “You have to be crazy to go see a therapist.” There is a healthy balance between those extremes. Here are a few thoughts:

1-Therapy can be very helpful in processing trauma. The loss of a loved one, a serious accident or illness, an assault of any kind, a child with birth defects, divorce or other traumatic events or experiences tend to resolve more quickly and more completely when they are well-processed. Therapy can help.

2-Therapy can help when we feel stuck. There are any number of challenging situations that can confuse us or hurt us to a point of near immobility. When we know we are stuck and can’t see clear alternatives, therapy can be useful.

3-If an individual is taking anti-depressants, he or she should be aware that medications are, in general, treating the symptoms, not the root of the problem. Every study on this issue shows that anti-depressants are significantly more effective when combined with therapy.

4-Marriage problems can be effectively addressed in a good therapeutic setting. A husband and wife who are willing to honestly engage in making changes to improve their relationship can accomplish a great deal. Although some would say that marriage counseling can’t take place unless both partners are involved, personally, I feel that marriage work can be done even if there is just one of the partners involved. If either husband or wife is willing to address their part of the relationship and make changes in the ways they act and react, the relationship dynamic changes and things can improve.

This is, of course, not a comprehensive list of situations or problems that can be addressed in therapy. Loneliness, any painful relationship, depression, addictions of all kinds, parenting issues, having been a victim of abuse, anger issues, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, blended family issues . . . the list goes on . . .anything that is creating serious stress, may be significantly helped by seeing a good therapist.

In my 16 years as a therapist, it is not my experience that people seek therapy for frivolous concerns. In fact, when I was starting out seeing clients, my husband, Chris—having been a therapist for 15 years, at that point—said, “The bishops keep the easy ones.” I have found that to be true, not that the bishops don’t deal with plenty of serious issues, too, bless them. Neither have I seen people seek therapy too quickly.  It is just the reverse. Often, I find myself wishing clients had come in earlier. This is particularly true with marriage troubles. There are times I honestly feel we could have saved a marriage, if at least one partner had sought help earlier.

As discussed in the last post, therapy is a strange profession and, always, caveat emptor—“let the buyer beware.” But if you, or someone you love, need help, don’t wait too long.

For an endorsement of therapy, watch the clip below (from Chris’ and my favorite movie about therapy, “What About Bob?”):

  1. Pops says:

    I have a friend who more or less thought himself into a corner from which the only exit apparent to him was suicide, and this at a time when he was serving as a Stake President or perhaps just after. With the help of medication and therapy, he was able to get out of the corner and back into healthy territory. This is a clear case of therapy and medication being very useful and necessary.

    I guess the thing that really bothers me is how many people are on antidepressants or ADD/ADHD medications of some kind. It seems like half the people I know are doing this. Maybe I just hang out with the wrong people or something. Are we eating something wrong? Is it pesticides? Has the gene pool gone completely to pot? Is it too much TV and internet? I don’t get it…

  2. Lili says:

    I agree that depression, anxiety, ADHD, etc., are practically the national pastime. I don’t know that anyone has a complete answer as to why but, personally, I believe key contributors are, first, we live in stressful times, second, the planet is getting less nurturing (as in the love of men waxing cold and the decrease in natural affection), and third, as a society, we tend to be less and less willing to tolerate discomfort. Also lacking are effective coping skills for processing the hurt, anger, and other negative emotions that result from living on an imperfect planet. I am currently working on a book that discusses how we can more effectively and healthily deal with all negative emotions.

    And I’m glad your friend got help.

  3. Faith says:

    I’m grateful for the technology that gives us the benefit of medication where needed. It seems to me, though, that so much about life now is the quick fix. It takes a lot of work to figure things out and change where needed and people don’t want to put forth the effort.

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