In the four years I’ve worked in private practice, I’ve had many clients sit down across from me for the first time and say, “I can’t believe I’m in therapy. There must be something really wrong with me”. Having worked with a therapist myself, I know firsthand how intimidating it can be. It’s difficult recognizing the need for help, searching for a good therapist, making that initial call, and going in for the first time, not knowing what to expect from the process. Yet, needing the help of a therapist doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. It means life is hard and you’re human.
There’s a misconception that if you work with a therapist you must be a mental case. It’s true that therapists treat mental illness, but therapy is indicated and recommended for EVERYONE. Working with a therapist doesn’t make you crazy; it makes you smart. We aren’t given a manual for life. We aren’t educated about how our brains work, how the mind and body are connected, how to communicate effectively, or how to develop the self intimacy necessary to maintain positive self esteem and direction throughout our life course. That’s what therapy is for.
I work with many clients who have no history of mental illness, nor are they experiencing a crisis in their lives. They are utilizing therapy to be PROACTIVE in preventing problems. They participate in treatment in order to become their best selves, enhance their relationships, parent more effectively, and practice good self care to ensure they STAY happy, healthy, and well adjusted. This is the very best way to use therapy. It’s much easier to prevent crisis than it is to clean up the mess after it occurs.
In truth, if you’re in therapy, you’re among some of the healthiest people in our society. By working with a therapist, you’re identifying your struggles, accepting you have room for growth, and are working to overcome obstacles and limitations. I often tell my clients that I’m not worried about them. I know they’ll be ok because they’re ready and willing to do the hard work necessary to feel better and be better. I worry about all the people in the world who aren’t working with a therapist, who are living in denial of their problems, and aren’t taking steps toward positive change.
Working with a therapist has many benefits, but here five reasons why everyone needs a therapist:
1. The therapeutic relationship is the only relationship in your life that is non-reciprocal. The entire relationship is centered around you, which is truly beautiful. In all other relationships, there exists an expectation of give and take. You be there to listen, comfort, and support me and I will do the same for you. The therapeutic relationship allows you to monopolize every conversation, thinking and caring about what’s important to you, without giving any attention to what might be going on with your therapist. It’s designed that way, and it provides an opportunity for reflection, self growth, and insight that no other relationship can give.
2. Working with a therapist allows us to be vulnerable, yet safe. Sharing our deepest and most intimate thoughts and feelings with another human being makes us incredibly vulnerable. Vulnerability opens us up to potential harm. While vulnerability is scary and intimidating in many cases, it is required for human connection to exist. When we expose ourselves to the important people in our lives, like our parents, spouse, or best friend, we run the risk of judgment, criticism, or forever being viewed in a negative way thereafter. What we think and feel also has the potential to hurt people we care about. In therapy, we can speak our mind without filtering our thoughts or feelings, which helps us to dig deeper into ourselves and recognize what truly lies beneath.
3. A therapist serves as a neutral, objective sounding board. Those closest to us and our life situations are biased commentators who may give advice or recommendations based on ulterior motives. While intentions are usually good, our friends and family often have perceptions just as cloudy and irrational as our own. Relying on them to provide us with objective ideas isn’t always a realistic option. In contrast, a therapist maintains an objective, non-judgmental attitude and perspective. As a therapist, I carefully select only the feedback, suggestions, or recommendations that will be helpful to my client. If it isn’t useful, inspiring, or enlightening, it isn’t said. This is a skill therapists are trained to develop, and is one of the many ways therapists help their clients.
4. Therapists help you find your strengths. Our culture seems heavily focused on deficits. We often think more about what we don’t have, what’s going wrong, or want needs to be fixed rather than seeing what we do have, what’s going well, and accepting what currently is. Therapists can help you discover the wonderful parts of yourself, your attributes, and the skills and talents you possess. While therapy can be focused on areas of growth and solving problems, it’s also largely focused on bringing your strengths to the forefront and allowing you to shine.
5. A therapist is your coach, cheerleader, and greatest fan. If you want to get in the game of life and win it, you need a good coach. Having a guide, mentor, or coach is incredibly valuable in an arena in which your striving for success. Therapists are well equipped with tools, skills, and information to help you score big in life. Therapists teach you strategies to overcome obstacles while supporting you, cheering you on, and celebrating your success.
Being in therapy doesn’t make you crazy. Struggling through life alone and unhappy might be crazy though. Everyone deserves to be happy, healthy, and resilient, and working with a therapist can help you live that way. Whether you’re suffering from crisis or wanting to prevent problems from arising in the future, therapy can be an incredibly healing, enlightening, and useful experience.