Therapy is about growth!
As a therapist in a private practice setting, one thing I often hear from clients is that their spouse or family member is resistant to joining them in therapy because “they don’t want to come to therapy because they think that means they REALLY need help,” or “they don’t think we need therapy to deal with this” or some other version of this resistance. What do people mean by these comments? For many people therapy still carries a stigma with it.
Therapy means I am failing.
Therapy means I can’t fix it on my own.
Therapy means I’m losing the battle.
Therapy means I need help.
We’ve come a long way in confronting the stigma surrounding mental health and therapy, but we still have a long way to go.
I firmly believe that therapy can be helpful regardless of level of functioning. Therapy isn’t only for people who are in crisis and need a safe place to work towards stabilization, it is also quite helpful for people who are doing well but want to be thriving. Often this means improvement in some specific area such as relationship communication, more healthy boundaries, support through a difficult loss, or exploring spirituality. All of these are great ways to utilize the therapeutic process. Therapy is about growth!
Years ago I assisted with a pre-marital class at our local church and I remember we would bring in couples who had been married (happily) for many years. One couple shared they had decided to go to therapy once a year around their anniversary for a couple’s “check up” of sorts. They shared that some years it centered around sharing joys and accomplishments and some years they went in for several sessions to process through difficulties in communication or lingering resentment – but every year it was helpful. They didn’t go to therapy because their relationship was in crisis they went to make sure it stayed healthy and continued to grow. It makes me wonder how transformative a practice like this could be if it were more common. Preventative medicine has shown to be key in maintaining physical well being, why would mental health be any different?
We’re all limited by our own perceptions and biases, in many ways we live in our own bubbles and can’t see ourselves as clearly as one would hope. Part of what a counselor does is help you see what you might miss on your own. This is why most counselors actively participate in counseling themselves, it’s not only about having the knowledge, it’s about sitting with someone you trust and working together to figure out a path forward. It’s often not a question of trying harder or thinking about it longer; it’s a question of gaining insight and awareness you just wouldn’t be able to attain on your own.
What then does it mean to go to therapy? I believe it means you are serious about growth. You’re ready to take active steps toward making positive changes, whether that means going from rock bottom to steady or from steady to thriving. There’s always room to grow and that’s what we’re here for.