Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Maybe you should get

For those of you out there who have heard this statement reluctantly leave the lips of your loved ones, you are not alone. There is a depth of grief that comes with certain life events that your average momma or papa bear just doesn't know what to do with. I sincerely hope you have people in your life that love you immensely and want very much to help you, and for some people that may be enough to get you to a healthier place. For those of us who have spent one too many nights rehashing the breakup with our best friend, bishop, sister or the poor, unsuspecting guy who sat next to us on a bus, there is another place to turn. We have the option of seeing a professional.

I've encountered three basic camps on this issue. 1. Camp Shrink-tastic. 2. Camp Never Can Decide-y Pants. 3. Camp I Don't Need Your Voo Doo. To the skeptic I say, okay. Don't get therapy. Everyone has to work this out in her own way. I sincerely wish you luck. To the enthusiast I say, I hope things are going well for you. The rest of this post is for group two, the as of yet  undecided on the topic. I'll write this in the way I imagine a Q&A session might go. You'll be the Q, I'll be the A. My qualifications to be A are: I have seen a shrink or two in my day. One odd, a couple totally unhelpful, one pretty good, and Professor Rationality (we'll call him) who I see now I like quite a bit. Also, I am, as an acquaintance once described me, "very opinionated".

Q: How do I find a therapist?

A: Ask your Bishop for a recommendation. He likely refers people in your ward for therapy often. If you prefer a non LDS counselor or don't want to ask your bishop, ask around or talk to your buddies, Google and Yelp.

Q: What do I look for in a therapist?

A: Decide what issues you want to work on and look for a therapist who specializes in that. If he doesn't do the work you're looking for, ask him for a referral. Also, you may prefer a male or female, LDS or non-LDS, etc. Do your research, then email or call. Feel free to ask a reasonable amount of questions before scheduling an appointment.

Q: How do I know if I found a good one?

A: This is an important question that most people don't consider. The first session should be an interview with the therapist where you ask him or her anything you want to know: where she went to school, why she chose this field, what her methods are, how she structures a session, etc. You'll need to feel you could build trust with your therapist and feel confident in her abilities to lead you on a path to healthier living. Don't be afraid to shop around 'till you find the right fit. It's important. Once you're in therapy, know that the process brings up a lot of emotions. It's not uncommon, therefore, to feel deeply after a session or to be very tired. Ultimately, however, you should feel hopeful throughout the work.

Q: How long will I have to be in therapy?

A: This one is really must be taken case by case. It depends on what you want to work out, how often you attend, what the theories of your therapist are etc. The man I see is pretty firm in his belief that therapy is one of many tools to be used for the time that it's useful. He recommends an appointment just once or twice a month and has no qualms with the idea that our sessions will likely end when I go off to school in September. This is something you will want to discuss with your therapist as early as the first interview.

Q: So, what happens when I get in there? I mean, do I lay on a couch and close my eyes and talk about my childhood while some grey haired balding man listens and writes down cryptic notes while occasionally parroting my expressions?

A: Good glory, I hope not. I have never been laying down. That would be weird. And I hate when people just parrot what I say in a validating way. How the session is structured is largely up to you and your therapist. He'll help you identify where your thinking patterns have become distorted and are causing you grief. He may have exercises for you to try (ie:writing a letter to someone who has wronged you), books for you to read, or practices for you to incorporate in your daily life to help move you through what you've been struggling with.

Q: Couldn't you just talk to your friend? Isn't it the same thing?

A: In some cases, talking to my friends has been way more helpful than seeing a shrink for me, but I happen to have phenomenal and wise friends and family who are kind, down to earth, and helpful. That being said, with the therapist I have now, I do feel like going to a session to work with him is different for these reasons.

1. I don't feel guilty burdening him with anything I'm going through.
2. It's a set time for me to "work" on important challenges regularly.
3. He's been in practice for 27 years and is very scientific in his approach. He is excellent in explaining
to me what is a normal reaction/function of the brain and/or body and what I can expect to come next. He puts things in a helpful context for me, helps me see where my upbringing or relationships were off or unhealthy. Sometimes when you've grown up in chaos or been in an unhealthy relationship for so long it can be hard to distinguish what's healthy and what's not on your own.
4. There's something about paying for something that causes one to be a little more invested, action oriented and concerned with results. I find this helpful and motivational.

Q: Isn't therapy for crazy people and sissies?

A: No. Well, I mean, actually yes. Counseling sessions can be useful for some forms of psychosis, however, all candidates for counseling need not display symptoms of psychosis or even neurosis. As for being worried about people thinking you're a sissy, that makes you a sissy much more than attending therapy. (Nipped that one in the bud, didn't we? ; )

Okay, kiddos. That's all I've got for tonight. If you think of any more shoot me an email or post in the comments below. I'll add any good ones to the list. Sleep well, and whatever you are doing to help yourself through this, I sincerely hope it's working.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for that viewpoint. I am in camp #2. I suffered MDD as a teenager and for some reason never went to therapy. Just got the medication. I turned out OK, didn't I? Maybe not really? Anyway, towards the end of our marriage we went to a marriage counselor. It was through a work program, because my then-wife, "The Mrs.", did not want an LDS counselor. The Mrs. thought they would just read scriptures, and judge her. And she would feel attacked and misreable. Interviews with our bishop confirmed that suspicion in her mind. The first visit, after a just couple of questions, the therapist determined that our marriage counseling was to be "divorce counseling". I never knew there was such a thing. My wife was pleased. I was devastated. Now with that track record, I wonder if counseling is for me. Can it really help? I have found great "therapy" in visits to the gym and long bike rides, those accompanied with prayerful conversations with the Lord. This has brought me great peace. Maybe enough. I don't know. There is still a gaping hole in my heart where my children once lived, and still a smaller one where The Mrs. once lived. Sorry to vent! But I want to say that I REALLY enjoy your thoughts on this blog. It is nice to have many of my feelings vocalized this way. It is therapeutic. Keep up the good work.