Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What is Psychotherapy? And, Why go to a Therapist?

I am a supporter, believer and provider of psychotherapy....not because I am a licensed psychotherapist, but because I know first-hand how therapy can guide and help people through life's challenges.  I use the metaphor of the ocean to explain how life is not always a journey of calm seas--there are swells, storms, rip tides, sea creatures, and unexpected shifts in the tides. along the way. These conditions are difficult to bypass when traveling the sea of life.  What is different about being out in the ocean is that in our lives we are not given an instruction manual to direct us through life's turbulent waters.  If we seek advice from friends and family members, we will get different solutions to one problem. We are given friends, families, and other significant relationships to hopefully comfort us,  but many times we need someone to just listen, someone who won't place judgement on us, interrupt us with their personal stories, and who will not discuss our private thoughts and feelings with others. That is how therapy is different. It provides a safe place to share thoughts and feelings without fear that what we say will be gossiped about, and we are being listened to by a trained clinician who can identify behavior patterns and give us tools to manage sabotaging thoughts.

There continues to be a stigma attached to seeing a therapist.  There are many who still believe that only "crazy" people seek psychotherapy and that talking about feelings is for the weak among us. This could not be further from the truth.  For instance, why would you want to live your life continuing to repeat the same mistakes, engage in unhealthy relationships or live a life of mistrust of yourself and those around you? Wouldn't it be easier to learn methods and tools to manage self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviors? Wouldn't life be more enjoyable if you only knew how to control and manage depression, anxiety, anger and behaviors that create chaos in your life?

Learning tools to manage anxiety and depression can mean the difference between living a life of pain and unhappiness instead of feeling in control and trusting ones self. Learning methods to alter the self-defeating internal dialogue is one way to begin the process. How we speak to ourselves when no one is around keeps us doubting ourselves and that effects our relationships, work, and mood.

So,why would you consider seeing a psychotherapist? Some people choose to go to therapy because of a life-altering experience: they lose their job; their marriage falls apart;  they experience a death of a friend or family member; they experience a trauma or near death experience; they suffer a serious health challenge.  Then their are individuals who seek out therapy to develop greater self-awareness and grow as human-beings.  There might not be one specific issue they come into therapy hoping to resolve, but they want to understand themselves better. So you see, therapy is for those among us who want to develop a personal manual to aid them and guide them through the ebbs of a flows of the sea of life.

Next post I will write more about a few of different types of psychotherapy that are out there.

Be well in body, mind and spirit!