Complete transparency: I LOVE my job. The way I see it, therapy can be helpful to almost anyone. In fact, I often fantasize that if I ever win the lottery I’m going to be passing out therapists like Oprah Winfrey used to pass out goodies on her annual Favorite Things Episode. “You get a therapist! And you get a therapist! Eeeeevvvvvvveeeeerrryyyyy body gets a therapist!” To all those closest to me, you’re welcome in advance. And this now not-so-secret dream of mine isn’t 100% connected to my personal bias about how beneficial therapy can be for folks.
There are countless reasons why people seek out professional mental health assistance. We could likely choose random strangers walking down the street to form a Family Feud team that could easily come up with popular answers to “Common Issues Dealt with by a Therapist.”
- Work Stress
- Relationship Issues
- Family Conflict
- School-Related Issues
My guess is that we all know someone (or many someones) we think could use the help of a trained professional but did you know that someone, may in fact be you? Although I think the stereotype is slowly changing over the course of time, some people may still find themselves hesitant to elicit the assistance of a therapist for fear that it means something undesirable. Here’s the word I dislike the most when it’s associated with seeing a therapist: “Crazy.” “That person is crazy….she/he needs a therapist.” “I must be crazy because I’m here.” “I feel crazy because I can’t figure this out on my own.” You get the idea. I can’t speak for all the therapists in the world, in all the different therapy settings, working with different client populations but in my personal experience “crazy people” don’t go to therapy very often. In reality, a person doesn’t even need to be experiencing a “crisis” in order to benefit from seeing therapist. Yet I know that many of you still need a little more convincing. (Cue epic music intro, signaling to readers that a pretty rad pondering is imminent)
Many therapists go to or have previously gone to therapy. I’ve heard some say they became therapists because of positive effects they personally experienced earlier in life as a result of going to therapy. However, for others their first experience of actually participating in a real session may not have been until they started graduate school. In many cases graduate training programs require therapists in training to participate in therapy. In addition to wanting therapists to understand what it feels like from the client’s perspective to engage in the therapeutic process, there’s another EXTREMELY important reason why this is a common practice: Therapists are human. We have our own experiences we carry around in our invisible suitcases that influence who we are as people, change the way we see the world and consequently impact the way we engage you—the client—in therapy. Thankfully for all of us, the therapy gurus of years past saw this phenomenon, studied it, labeled it and now we’re all taught about it in school. I’ll spare you too many details but generally speaking it’s essential that we understand certain things about ourselves so we can be effective in our role. Why did we become therapists? What are our personal biases? Do we have unresolved issues connected to our families that we might project onto others (in this case clients) if left untreated? How do we take care of ourselves when stressed? Do we know how to communicate our feelings effectively? How do we respond to others during moments of conflict?
Take a minute to imagine what it would be like if other careers/professions had a therapy prerequisite. What if police officers were in therapy while they were in the police academy…? Perhaps exploring why they wanted to be cops and examining any unresolved personal issues could be helpful in maximizing their success down the road. What if attorneys and judges were required to process through the aforementioned questions? Or what about politicians or teachers?
Regardless of what you do for a living, these questions seem pretty important, yes? SO important some might argue that MOST people could benefit from thinking these things out loud with, oh I don’t know, maybe a professionally trained, third party?
Which brings me back to my glorious Oprah moment in which I strike it rich one day and start doling out therapists instead of the latest smart phone or SUV to all my friends and family. And with any luck, maybe now my future gift will be received with a smile or at least a consideration to partake because after all, therapy might just be helpful to you…and you…and maybe even you!