Why I Love Therapy (And You Will, Too!)
My therapist tells me that couples come to see him 7 years too late.
Let that sink in for a minute….
He also says there should be a big warning sign at the door of every therapist’s office stating: “Enter at your own risk!”. The journey of self-discovery is not an easy one, because facing yourself and the reality you’re in may be one of the hardest things you will ever do. You can’t ‘BS’ a Doctor of Psychology—they will clearly see through any nonsense tactics. So, yeah, you’ll need to put your big girl panties on for this one.
If you’re lucky enough to land a great therapist, he will subtly direct you to lay all your cards out on the table until you can’t hide behind all the fluff you’ve created for yourself over the years. Your therapist does this with the intent of freeing you of your emotions, allowing you to be truly naked in all your emotional glory, and challenging you to rebuild who you are. The upside to this journey is the enormous potential to live a vastly happier and more harmonious life, and to finally feel at peace with who you are, and in your relationships.
A Whole New Level of Growth
Whether you’re paying attention to your feelings or not, they are having an impact on your life and relationships. And you don’t necessarily see it, because mostly the person who you are, is a creation in response to your childhood and something we unquestionably accept as “right”. Therapy gives us that higher-level vantage point and pushes us to investigate why we do the things we do and how we can do them better.
But don’t let me fool you, I wasn’t always a pro-therapy advocat. In my early 20’s, I studied a few holistic healing methodologies and would always have previously recommended someone pursue that route first. My husband and I have both directly benefited from spiritual healing experiences. I’ll likely share our positive experiences with that at some point, but first, I have to share this message I’ve been privileged to learn. Life led me to therapy and it opened up a whole new level of growth that I would not otherwise have had, and I want that for you as well.
“Whether you’re paying attention to your feelings or not, they are having an impact on your life and relationships.”
My Turning Point
My “Aha!” moment came the day before my first child turned 1. I had struggled through undiagnosed postpartum depression for an entire year—because I’m “strong” like that— but more on that later. I didn’t allow myself to ask for help because I hadn’t even admitted anything was wrong. Knowing you need help or support and asking for it is the first step towards fixing the problem.
Fast forward to my daughter’s first birthday, and all the stress of the year caught up with me and I finally cracked into a giant heap of crying patheticness (is that a word?) on the floor of my bedroom. I said to my husband, tears streaming down my face, that I felt “totally broken” and needed to go talk to someone.
“Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help, and brave enough to ask for it.” — Ziad K. Abdelnour
Hello to Dr. Crane
Enter Dr Crane. Ok, well that’s not really his name, but that’s what we call him, because well, Frasier fans anyone?
Over the last 5 years, Dr. Crane has become like a father figure to me and led me to love therapy. He is this extremely wise, silver-haired grandfather, who also happens to be a Doctor of Psychology. I love how he always removes his opinion—guiding me to find the best answer for myself—the best answer that allows me to grow and get the most out of my life experience.
I came to him in a very fragile state, still confused as to why I was feeling this way, and simultaneously in a place of non-acceptance. He told me I needed to grieve: for the horrendous birthing experience I endured, for my body not cooperating with me by not being able to produce milk for my baby, for the family support I didn’t have (immigrant = no family), for the 6 hours a day my baby would scream, for the shitty pediatrician who didn’t help at all in diagnosing her, for the discovery that my baby had been bleeding internally from severe milk protein allergy, and for the sleepless nights that continued for the entire year.
And for all of these things, I needed to grieve for the loss of my former life and self.
Permission To Grow
It was a revelation. I was being given permission to grieve. I was being given permission to allow myself to be fragile and admit I wasn’t coping. Look, I would love to say that this sudden insight made my self-love and self-care issues evaporate, but it’s something I still work on to do this day. I still have an inner critic who often wins with her “Suck It Up!” attitude to pretty much everything.
“I love how he always removes his opinion—guiding me to find the best answer for myself—the best answer that allows me to grow and get the most out of my life experience.”
It turns out my husband also hit it off with Dr. Crane, and has also made some great strides in his own individual therapy—it’s amazing what comes up from your childhood and how your perspective changes; how much more empathy you have for yourself.
What has been one of the greatest gifts from my journey to therapy, is couples therapy. It’s a completely different experience to individual therapy because the whole session is designed for you to speak to your partner and to have the therapist guide you and interject when necessary. It’s amazing the insight you learn in therapy after you’ve grown accustomed to the same negative patterns. And because you’re doing this with your partner, you both can go home with a new awareness and the right toolkit to rebuild some of those fallen walls.
Couples therapy has helped our relationship tremendously. Even just writing this article reminds me that we need a tune up! Take my advice, don’t wait…
“It’s amazing the insight you learn in therapy after you’ve grown accustomed to the same negative patterns.”
But why does putting our feelings into words, like talking with a therapist, help us to feel better? In a brain imaging study done at the University of California, the results revealed that by verbalizing our feelings, our sadness, anger or pain, this then makes those feelings less intense. Therapy can help with identifying and managing negative thoughts and emotions, by coping with grief, loss, and trauma, and resolving relationship problems.
Growing Self breaks down the 6 ways in which couples therapy helps to build back your relationship:
- Strengthens your emotional bond
- Improves your communication
- Helps for you to learn how to work as a team
- Reignites the intimacy and passion
- Teaches you how to simply enjoy each other again
- Gives you the tools you need to move forward, together
Relationships Need Maintenance
Think about it: you service your car a couple times a year, don’t you? Well, relationships also need maintenance! I know there are some naysayers out there, and I have experienced strong resistance when recommending therapy even with close friends (who need it!), but frankly what’s not to like with a list of benefits like that! If you both are truly committed to your relationship—not only ‘making it work’ but making it fun and exciting—then go get it! Because trust me, it works!
So what do you do if your partner refuses to join you in Couples Therapy? Go on your own! Work through your marriage issues with your therapist. Change will begin to happen with or without your partner making the effort, and they’ll either have to ship up or ship out!
“You service your car a couple times a year, don’t you? Well, relationships also need maintenance!”
Where to get help?
If you are lucky enough to have great insurance, go straight here to find a psychologist near you: findapsychologist.org. I chose Dr. Crane because his name resonated with me and my intuition didn’t let me down! Nowadays you find lots of information online about doctors. Do your research to see what their speciality is, and remember to go with your gut 🙂
Another very cool modern day option is e-therapy! I haven’t personally tried this yet but plan on doing so soon! You have to check out talkspace.com. For $128/month (couples therapy is $189/month) you can have unlimited ‘chat’ access to your chosen therapist. How cool is that? The perks of this route is that you don’t have to commute to schedule time for appointments, and you can chat in private on your phone as you would with a friend. It’s also less likely to be intimidating for those who are nervous at the thought of therapy.
Here is a list of ideas and resources:
- Try discussing cost with a therapist who is open to to the idea of a reduced payment arrangement. Many are willing to do this. And you’ll never know if you don’t ask!
- Find a support group on NAMI.
- Call the psychology department at your local university and ask if they have free or low cost counseling. You may get graduate students, but they are supervised by licensed psychologists and can still offer great assistance.
- Try contacting a local community mental health center. They may provide free or low-cost therapy options and services covered by Medicaid insurance. To find a center, search using Google or look at your state government website for the Department of Human Services.
- If you belong to a religious group, talk to your rabbi/imam/priest/pastor/monk about your needs and see if they can help in any way.
- 7 Cups of Tea offers free, anonymous and confidential online text chat with trained listeners, online therapists & counselors. It’s a safe, supportive atmosphere to talk either one on one with a trained listener, or in a group setting with other people who share similar stories. There is a smartphone App too!
“The obstacles of your past can become the gateways that lead to new beginnings.” — Ralph Blum
Only you will know what route is best for you. The tips I’ve given in this article are, I believe, incentives for beginning a journey in therapy. But the decision doesn’t have to be made overnight. Taking that crucial first step is always the hardest part. But knowing, and acknowledging, that you need change is the hardest part. Pat yourself on the back for being brave enough to seek change! And if you do embark on a journey of exploration, I hope you love therapy as much as I do 🙂