The limits (and benefits) of professional mental therapy

Therapists. Shrinks. Counselors. Sometimes, you just need one, to help tackle a deeper problem. But sometimes that’s not what you really need.

When therapy is applied correctly, it can work, and very well. But often, people go to therapists for things that really have easier, better solutions than continued therapy. Good therapists will spot this and either reveal it to their patient, or set a target goal or date for the patient to stop needing therapy (though they may not always share this with the patient depending on the case).

Unfortunately, not every therapist is a good therapist. And, it must be said, in a society in which therapy is a private, for-profit occupation, many therapists have an interest, conscious or not, in keeping their patients in the same place so they will consistently continue therapy for years and years. But if you go for years merely rehashing the same subject matter over and over again, then you [and your therapist] are possibly doing it wrong. The point is to make qualitative strides and get further along in one’s development – not stay in the same old place.

There are some times when there is something that won’t ever go away, it is true. Some things are lifelong, and must be accepted as such. But even when there are one or two specific things you cannot change, often there are a hundred things that you associate with them that you can change.

There are many people who find comfort in what doesn’t change, even when the status quo is pretty lousy. For such people, ongoing therapy that always deals with the same old same old is fine – it fits in with their appreciation of stability. Breaking with the routine and making transformational changes can be very upsetting to folks in this mindset.

However, there comes a time when what was good enough before is no longer satisfactory. And sometimes you don’t even notice it, because everything around you is “fine,” and you should be satisfied, right? If there are problems – even big problems – we often make excuses in order to tolerate an inadequate situation, thinking that the problems we are dealing with are routine and well-known (to ourselves, anyway), and so they shouldn’t be a big deal.

If you’re going to therapy or thinking about going to therapy because of some problem you’re experiencing, it is a big deal! The point of real, transformational therapy is to break free; to bust out of one’s rut and find new methods and ways of dealing with problems. To get to the point where you truly have leveled up and really dealt with a nagging problem fully, even if there is no way to make the problem completely disappear.

Professional distance

Therapy is sometimes touted as being more appropriate because the therapist is assumed not to have a personal connection with their patient – it’s a “business deal,” free of the stickiness of more intimate relationships. But this is precisely where therapy can also be inadequate: the therapist can never actually know you in your own environment, precisely because of their professional code. You may come into the therapist’s office, sit down and proceed to detail quite clearly what’s troubling you in your life – but there’s nothing like seeing how somebody behaves in the moment.

Ever come across somebody who doesn’t listen when friends and loved ones speak up about something they should change, but yet they listen to a therapist or doctor or someone else in a “professional” capacity? There are many reasons for this, which I won’t go into here … but often, even if such a person needs therapy, the place they need to get to is one of listening in general – to themself, their body, their soul, their friends, their loved ones – so that they don’t have to go to a therapist.

Many therapists can be very good at coming to understand their patients, but that’s no substitute for the intimate knowledge you and those closest to you have about yourself. Those deep, ingrained habits and secrets that even the best therapist will often be unable to touch for years that you and those closest to you know about – which often hold crucial keys to unlocking doors that have been shut for a long time.

This is not an anti-therapy rant. Therapy can be very effective, specifically when the problem it is treating is very specialized and requires the knowledge and experience of somebody who understands and deals with such things. But just as some very specialized things require special therapy, many times what we are dealing with will not be solved through professional therapy.

Some people today live in a lonely state for so long that they forget how important it is to have a social support system that doesn’t rely on paying money to visit an “expert’s” office for an hour a week.

Any kind of self-improvement should involve actual improvement, outside of what you feel during the appointments, even if the improvement is highly uneven. If things don’t seem to be changing, maybe you need some other kind of support instead of / in addition to therapy. The key is to be as active as possible in your participation in the care, even when you feel like you have no confidence in yourself.

You should always feel that you’ve been listened to, even though you may not like the responses you get. Better to feel strongly angry about something, for example, than to be stuck with that “huh?” feeling – as though you cannot figure out why the conversation is drifting in a certain direction. This also goes for friends and loved ones that you turn to for support, but it’s specifically important to remember when it comes to therapy. Most one-on-one private therapy takes place in a realm that is [intentionally] so isolated from everything around it that it is easier to drift off into meaninglessness [for the patient as well as the therapist] than it would be otherwise.

If you’re feeling dissatisfied with things as they are, take a multi-pronged approach. If you feel you need therapy, sure, go for it! BUT also look for those friends, family, and people around you who care, trustworthy people, to help you. Don’t hide your need for help from them. And remember that therapy is not just about visiting a professional’s office and chit-chatting; it’s a million other things also – things that change your state of mind, like listening to good music, dancing, singing, playing sports, reading a good book, pursuing a goal you’ve always had, helping someone around you with their troubles, putting yourself in new environments through traveling and/or making new friends, and so much more!

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This entry was posted in Achieving peace and understanding, Conflict and dealing with negativity, Healing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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