Why go to therapy? Maybe it’s a last resort. Maybe you want to ‘fix’ things. Maybe the proverbial excrement has hit the fan in your life.
Perhaps a relationship fails and you’re looking for answers. Or the experience of a profound loss or other trauma has left other coping strategies lacking.
Some people are understandably skeptical of the benefits. Some think they should handle their struggles on their own. But deciding to ask for help (therapy) has been the most profound decision of my life. I’ll explain why.
Software programs and human minds are not that different. It’s about inputs and outputs. We take feedback from our environment as input. We respond with output. The programs that inform what action we take are learned responses. We’re taught appropriate responses from our parents, our communities, our institutions.
The problem is, we often don’t revisit what we’ve learned. We hold on to responses that aren’t based on facts or even helpful. And it’s common for these programs to run unnoticed.
The Power of Therapy
The value of therapy is in identifying patterns in your thoughts and behavior. Only after you achieve awareness of the choices you’re making can you evaluate whether they’re helping meet your needs.
It’s simple, yes. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It requires a sort of ruthless honesty with yourself. Not a mean or hyper-critical honesty, but an unflinching, unvarnished look at what actions you are choosing.
This kind of honesty can help identify root causes for behaviors. Because in the end, every behavior is a need trying to get met. You begin to understand why you’re choosing responses when you are honest with yourself. You gain a better perspective on meeting your own needs.
If needs aren’t actually getting met, it’s time to re-evaluate the behavior. This opens the door to healthier, more effective strategies.
The Real Work of Therapy
Therapy requires you to do work.
There’s the time involved. We all have busy lives. It can be hard to find an extra hour here and there.
Being vulnerable is scary. It isn’t easy to reveal deep truths about ourselves. Especially the unsavory bits, opening ourselves up to perceived judgment. Although, a good therapist is a safe place to do this.
Let me be real here: The benefit is in the work. This means committing to new ways of thinking and acting. It can be therapeutic to talk to someone about how you feel, but it may not be enough. You have to do the homework; research the ideas, practice the lessons; field test what you learn.
Insight into motivations and decision-making has professional benefits too. We have office relationships we’re trying to manage. Understanding ourselves leads to a better understanding of others, which only leads to better outcomes. This amounts to better performance, better communication, better productivity.
Therapy is about breaking old patterns. It’s about awareness. It requires studying yourself. It’s the same as going to the dentist for routine checkups and cleaning; it’s mental floss.
Again, it’s simple but it’s not easy.
Fortunately, we don’t have to do this on our own. If you or someone you know can use more information finding a therapist, reach out to the folks running Psychology Today here.