When people hear a friend talk about therapy, a number of worries come to mind: Is he okay? Does he hate me? Is she suicidal? Unfortunately, knowing this, many people choose not to even attend therapy, even when they are in the most dire of situations. If people were more understanding of what therapy entails, and why people choose to attend therapy, these preconceived notions would fall to the wayside, along with the stigma attached to seeking help.
1. We’re not weak
Does going to the gym mean you’re physically weak? No. In fact, it means quite the opposite. Therapy is like a gym for your mental and spiritual well-being. Each session builds you up even more than you were before, and as you continue to work on the issues you may be facing in life, you continue to grow on a daily and weekly basis. The truly weak are the ones who avoid their problems and shelter themselves, rather than overcoming the obstacles life has thrown at them.
2. We’re not crazy
The social stigma attached to therapy is that, if you need professional help, you must be crazy. Again, that’s just not the case. Many perfectly sane, healthy individuals attend therapy to get some outside perspective about their life, especially as they navigate through rough experiences. Even therapists go to therapy! It’s not a matter of not being able to help yourself; it’s a matter of getting advice from a professional who sees things objectively and understands the best course of action to take.
3. We’re not medicated
Those attending therapy should not be looking for a quick fix. In fact, quick fixes, such as using alcohol or drugs, are usually part of the reason people begin attending therapy. Self-medicating simply masks larger issues that we’ve ignored or avoided in our daily lives; but when the effects of the drug wear off, the problems still exist. It takes much more willpower to confront your issues and tackle them than it does to drink a ton of beer and forget your problems exist for a couple hours. And when you confront your issues without the use of alcohol or drugs, you wake up stronger the next day, ready to take on the world once more.
4. We’re not wasting our time
There is absolutely no reason to think spending an hour a week getting your thoughts and feelings in order is a waste of time. In fact, if we all spent more time collecting ourselves, the world would most likely be in better shape than it is. Not only is the time spent in a session helpful, but it also helps us use our time outside of therapy more wisely. Going back to the gym metaphor, you wouldn’t go to the gym once a week and eat McDonald’s the rest of the time; you’d also start eating healthier, making healthier decisions, etc. Same with therapy. You carry with you the lessons learned in the short session throughout the week, making a better use of every moment of your day.
5. We’re not wasting our money
Yes, therapy can be expensive. But can you really put a price on your well-being? If the answer is yes, then you’re ironically a great candidate to start attending sessions! Going back to the last point, yes, the sessions might seem expensive, but if you utilize the lessons learned correctly and carry them with you throughout your life, the money amount completely evens out. $150 for an hour may seem like a lot, but if you use what you learned in that hour all week, assuming you’re awake for about 130 hours a week, you’re really only spending about a dollar an hour. Is your happiness and success really not worth a dollar an hour?
6. We’re not alone
A lot of people, when they find out a friend is in therapy, tend to wonder why their friend didn’t come to them, or doesn’t just go to their family with their problems. Well, the truth is, we know we can, but we don’t want to burden everyone else with our problems. Plus, we most likely already know the responses we’ll get from specific people if we go to them. Again, a therapist is an objective professional who won’t judge you, and won’t give you the stock answers most friends give to each other, even if they mean well. Sometimes explaining your issues to someone you don’t know can be more beneficial than discussing them with someone you’re close with.
7. We don’t talk about you
We don’t go to our therapists to gossip or talk trash about our closest friends. In fact, it’s usually quite the opposite. Everything discussed in a therapy session is meaningful and productive, which gossip certainly is not. We might talk about you, but anything negative we might say will ultimately come back to us from the therapist as “Well why do you feel this way about so and so?” It really is all about us. The sitcom joke of “My therapist said you need x, y, z” is simply a running gag that refuses to die, and has no factual basis in real therapy.
8. We’re okay with needing help
Although there usually is some catalyst that is the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” most people who attend therapy have been thinking of doing so for some time. Unfortunately, because of the stigma attached to it, people often wait until their breaking point before they decide to attend therapy. But it shouldn’t have to be that way. If it was more socially acceptable to engage in therapeutic sessions, more people would attend before they reach their wit’s end. But at any rate, the mere act of going to therapy shows that a person is okay with needing help, and is willing to seek it out from a professional.
9. We’re not necessarily in a bad place
Although many wait until they’re in dire straits before attending therapy, others are more proactive, and use therapy to avoid bad situations rather than to get out of them. Maybe they see the writing on the wall, or they’ve started out on a path to detrimental habits or hobbies, and want to head them off before things get to bad. Maybe everything is going fine, and they want to keep it that way. Whatever the case may be, attending therapy is a surefire way to get out of the funk you’ve been in, and ensure that you don’t stay too long in a “bad place.”
10. We’re not there for a set period of time
Therapy isn’t one of those “I think I’m cured, doc!” type of appointments. It’s merely a catalyst to get you moving in the right direction. As was mentioned before, the hour spent in a therapy session means nothing if it’s not acted on throughout the week. Yes, there will come a time when you don’t need your therapist anymore, or quite as frequently, but your self-improvement is always a work in progress. In fact, the moment you think “I’m good now, thanks!” is probably the moment you become complacent and stoic. Therapy is a springboard toward a better life, but you will always need to put in effort even after your sessions are over.
11. We don’t need you to feel bad for us
Like we mentioned before, being in therapy doesn’t mean we’re in a “bad place.” And it doesn’t mean we’ve changed who we are completely. We don’t need pity, because we actually feel stronger than we ever have before. It’s fairly ironic that people might feel bad for friends who are in therapy, but never felt bad for them before they started their sessions. Wouldn’t a good friend have noticed something was wrong before having to be told about it point blank?
12. We aren’t bossed around by our therapist
The old saying is true: You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t force him to drink. Our therapists definitely don’t tell us what to do. They would be wasting their time. However, they can guide us to make our own decisions using their professional observations and opinions. Once the therapist and the patient are able to find the best course of action, the patient is the one who needs to take the steps. Honestly, if a therapist were to blatantly tell you how to live your life, would you even listen?
13. We can’t recommend a therapist for you
Therapy just isn’t for everyone. Like we mentioned, it’s not a magic cure-all, and some people might not work well with specific therapists. What works best for me might not work at all for you. But, what we can tell you is, if you’ve been debating going to a session, absolutely do it. If you have an inkling at all that you might need some professional assistance, there is no reason not to give it a try. You might not like it, and might choose to discontinue services. On the other hand, going to therapy might actually change your life.
14. We’re not suicidal
This is a big one. The biggest misconception about people in therapy is that they’re teetering on the edge of Hamlet-ville. If it’s not obvious by now, let me make it clear: not all people in therapy want to die. People in therapy are there because they want to live. It’s those who are on a path of self-destruction, that choose not to better themselves, that run the risk of an untimely demise. Those who attend therapy are actively trying to get better, and, by taking this first step, they ensure that tomorrow will be a better day.
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