A consequence of our current lifestyle is that we don’t get to ask ourselves and others; ”how are you doing”. More importantly, we often carry tags of “I’m fine” with deceptive smiles to match. Most of us are aware of this blanket of aesthetic emotional experiences we live under, but many more of us feel powerless to change. The most common experience; “I just don’t have the time for this”.
You may have heard the phrase; if you don’t take a sick day, your body will take one for you. So, how does this relate to therapy? Most of us have scheduled general health exams. They help us keep an eye on our health and catch any areas of concern early on, thereby giving us a better chance for recovery. Well, what of our minds? Our brains or our emotions? Therapy can be a health exam for your mental state.
What constitutes Therapy?
The most common concern I see in my clients’ first appointments is their uncertainty about what therapy is. Understandably so, most of us don’t know what therapy is, except for depictions of people lying on their psychologist’s couches. And this does happen…just not as likely as you may think.
Therapy – sometimes referred to as psychotherapy or talk therapy – is a relationship with a trained professional, namely a psychologist, to address your overall mental and emotional health. They can provide insights into feelings, their origins, their consequences, along with the experiences that you have had in your life; in the past or currently. These can be experiences that cause distress or confusion, and lead you to identify recurring patterns in your life, and what may be causing these patterns.
A step up from this is psychotherapy that is applied for diagnosis and management of persons symptoms, thereby improving their quality of life. This is a structured treatment approach that is intended to identify problem areas, goals, and ways to meet those goals. A misconception people often have is if their psychologist finds a problem, they are obliged to “fix” the problem. This is absolutely not true! You can access therapy as a way to understand yourself, without necessarily having to make life altering changes to who you are!
That’s just a couple definitions of therapy. Yes, there is more to it!
Although all therapy comprises evidence-based treatment approaches, not all therapy is intended to solve a problem or fix situations. For many clients in long-term therapy, the therapeutic space is a non-judgmental, confidential, and consensual space to explore everything including their lives, their conversation or interpersonal skills, their barriers to expressing and recovering from emotions, their emotional ups and downs, and conflicts at work or in a relationship.
This is not an exhaustive list! I am always open to being surprised by my clients’ reasons for being there. In fact, if you’re unsure what you need to talk about in therapy, I encourage you to share this with your psychologist! You might be surprised by their response.
In fact, until you have talked to a psychologist about specific areas of struggle, your problem cannot be diagnosed and worked with! To surmise, the core purpose of therapy is to establish understanding of yourself, what you choose to or feel the desire to do after, your psychologist will support you.
Does this make therapy important?
The question here is; why does understanding yourself matter? Well, does it matter knowing your family’s history of cancer may be putting you at greater risk? Does it matter knowing that your addictive personality traits could put you at higher risk for addiction? Knowing these parts of you makes you a better decision maker, and a healthier, more insightful version of you.
That isn’t all. Mental health refers to your physical, mental, and social well-being. These factors directly impact the way you feel, think, act, handle or cope with stress, and relate to people around you, along with your ability to make appropriate choices for yourself. I wonder, why isn’t this important?
Go forth, and explore your mysterious self!
By Almaas, Psychologist.