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.”

ANSWER

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?”):

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