“Therapy is a waste of time and money.”
“You don’t need therapy if you have good friends.”
“Therapists just want to change people into something they’re not.”
“I should be able to fix my problems myself.”
“I don’t believe in therapy.”
I have heard all these things in my 15+ years in the field of psychology. And honestly I, too sometimes wonder what the heck therapy (and therapists!) are good for. Does anything of real importance actually happen in the therapy office? Are people really helped by “talk therapy” or is it all a scam? Would be all be better off just popping a pill and calling a psychic?
The answers to these questions are:
- Powerful things can happen in therapy.
- Yes, people are really helped by talking about their problems.
- And, no, we’re not better off just popping pills.
Here are some of the reasons I believe therapy is so powerful:
- There are few other situations in life in which you get to be the center of attention for a full hour. Therapy is a time in which you get to call the shots, meaning: you get to choose what to talk about, how to talk about it, and when to move onto another topic. I tell my clients that the therapy session is “their time” to do with whatever they like. When else does that happen?
- Talking to a therapist can seem like talking to a friend, at least at first. But it differs in some important ways: your therapist doesn’t tell you about their own problems, fears, etc and your therapist doesn’t have a dog in the fight. Meaning, it doesn’t matter to your therapist if you take job A or job B; choose boyfriend C or D; or quit calling your mother for 3 months. Her feelings won’t be hurt no matter how you live your life. Her main priority is that you improve your mental health.
- The therapy office is a safe place to try out new ways of thinking, understanding and interacting with your world. Because sharing your life with your therapist is just the first part of the therapy, the subsequent (and more interesting and transformative) parts include challenging your old ways of thinking and behaving in the hope of getting to a different place psychologically. This takes time and effort – and yes, even a little discomfort at times – but is at the heart of the therapeutic process.
- When push comes to shove I view myself as an educator. I educate folks about all sorts of different things in the course of my typical day: child development, parenting, stress management, mental health – the list goes on and on. Why read a million self help books when you can get a one-on-one tutoring session?