People come to therapy for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes they have a mental illness that has become so pronounced and severe in its symptoms that they need assistance managing those symptoms so they can continue to function. Some people come to therapy at an important juncture of life and want a place to sort it all out to make the next move. Some seek release from resentment, anger, fear and pain. Others want confirmation that they really are messed up, a victim. Many want attention. Some are seeking a companion on their journey through an existential universe. And yes, almost everybody just wants someone to listen to them. (Don’t knock paying someone to listen to you until you’ve tried it. You might be surprised how valuable undivided attention can feel.) A lot of the time people go into therapy for one thing and through the process, find themselves working on another thing.
But there’s still a lot of confusion, misinformation, and defensiveness about therapy on the part of those working out whether or not it might be good for them. And still the perception that you have to be really crazy/messed up/far gone/unable to deal with your issues on your own/blah blah. The more this meme is propagated, the more likely people will wait until they are far gone/“messed up”/making themselves “crazy” with their own thoughts and behaviors, etc.
I look forward to the day when the majority of the population will look at therapy as consultation for relationship and functionality enhancement, or symptom management, or existential exploration, or a paid attentive listener, and that will be that. None of this hand-wringing bullshit, this woe-is-me-the-fact-that-I’m-even-considering-therapy-must-mean-I’m-sooooo-messed-up time wasting malarkey. Just a train station, where you go, and decide what journey you need to be going on. Or not.
That day will come when we release a bit of our ignorance about mental illness and relationship dysfunction, and allow ourselves to be imperfect enough to explore our shadow. I think those times are coming. I feel it in the way people want to connect with me about their own struggles with mental illness and relationship dysfunction, when they learn that when they interact with me, I can be with them in a way that does not think less of them for a problem, a diagnosis, or a symptom. The more of us who behave without shame towards emotional, mental, and relationship issues, the more we give ourselves permission to heal them