I work with families of children admitted into a hospital-based mental health program. Its gratifying work when it isnt frustrating as hell. I think one of the reasons Im as effective as I am as a family therapist is my early education and training taught me I am not the fixer, but the facilitator. I keep a healthy distance between the issues presented to me and my own stuff. Yes, believe it or not, even therapist contend with their own thoughts, beliefs and attitudes in their daily lives. We, as therapist, are not immune from the day to day drudgery of everyday life. Therapist often question their own effectiveness in the lives of their clients and patients. Therapist also doubt themselves and the work they do. Those of us that do not question our abilities to render assistance either arent doing the work or have given up trying, frustration winning out.
Im known to do public presentations and it never fails Im asked “how to know if therapy is necessary?” The simple answer to the question asked a 100 different ways is how or if an issue you’ve identified is effecting your day to day life. Often the issue is not identified specifically, but a pattern of thought or behavior repeats itself usually accompanied by burdensome feelings that seemingly persist. The feelings just wont go away and often impact your thinking in a way that disrupts your focus, abridges your capacity for joy and happiness, and adds to the grind many of us endure in our everyday lives.
Emotional issues are very different from psychiatric diagnosis although the industry has permitted the blending of the two perspectives. Those neuro-physiological anomalies addressed by psychiatrist with medications are worlds different from those emotionally based feelings that manifest themselves as an individuals reality. Both instances are very real. Each impacting our lives similarly but from very different origins. Without an understanding of the origins the approach to relieve an individual of their issue can go awry very quickly. The quick approach promoted by many insurance companies is medication-based. Many skilled and experienced psychiatrists are at the ready to offer relief from anxiety, stress, worry, incessant thoughts and frightening hallucinations. Many of these medical doctors are disinterested in the stories that lead an individual to schedule an appointment, take time from their busy day, and sit before them feeling broken and having no control of their lives. Please know there are many psychiatrist that do a wonderful job of therapeutic counseling but the growing trend is toward a medication intervention to substantiate the necessary billing. Relief is often quick but short term and more medication or an additional medication is required to manage in the long term. We love quick relief in our western culture but hate the use of psychotropic medications. We have also become a culture that “enjoys” placing blame for any action or behaviors outside of our own thinking and doing. What conundrum. We’ve become comfortably irresponsible in our own realities.
Psychotherapy is all together different. The act of stringing stories of our lives together, looking for repeated responses, behaviors, attitudes and thinking is hard work. Its emotional in nature because each of these stories are connected by the feelings that accompany them. Our attempts to separate the feeling component from the stories we tell leaves us empty. Its the first lie we tell ourselves: “this happened but it doesnt bother me”. Acknowledging the impact is key. Allocating the first marks that define who we are is scary. Its not a thought, but a feeling that imbues each of us with a false ideal of who we are and repeats itself over and over again until the false identity becomes the persona we’re most comfortable with. Its the maintenance of these false personalities that lead us into directions we know arent true but are compelled to feed. And feed the false persona we do well. We quiet the Spirit that pushes us toward our truth. We hush the voice that tells of our false identities. I fight the battle to our truth with gadgets, designer clothing, cars, homes bigger than we need and the furnishing to fill them. We adopt philosophies, join groups and promote ideologies that give us entry into but separate us from others. We fill our lives with so much “stuff” we are often lost to ourselves.
There is an old adage that goes like this: “Ask a woman who she is and she’ll tell you who she loves, Ask a man who he is and he’ll tell you what he does” ..We all possess an internal desire to know ourselves. We often come short of this knowing.
We create relationships to support who we know ourselves to be. Each relationship, each new purchase, each affiliation is used to promote the identity we’ve fueled with energy that could be used in the pursuit of living our truth. Truth is difficult. Truth leaves us vulnerable. Truth opens us to others opinions and judgement, and many of us lack the spiritual strength to withstand the opinions and judgments of others. At the end of the day we’re tired. Wiped out in our attempts to maintain the false identity but compelled to do so.
Therapy has the potential to restore your energy. Therapy allows us to acknowledge the repeated patterns that rob us of free-will, choice and right thinking. Therapy opens the door to balance affording us the opportunity to experience life in the moment and outside the negative patterns we know bring us pain but are stuck in repeating. There is a relief felt at the releasing of the false persona. There is a freeing of oneself just to be. Spirit is awakened, truth fulfilled.
Therapy works when you do. Will you do the work?