What comes to mind when you hear someone is told, “go get professional help” or if your doctor suggests that “you should see someone”? Maybe you have a picture in your head, born from a TV show or a movie of what therapy is. The professional sits behind a desk. The client lays on a couch (if it’s an old movie) or squirms in a chair. Usually, somewhere along the way, magic happens. The client is fixed. Must be that Magic Wand that the professional keeps in his big desk drawer.
If you are ready to make that phone call and “see someone,” it’s only because all the ways you have tried to make yourself feel better have failed, or failed to make your life go the way it is supposed to, and you have had it with feeling so miserable.
So you pull out the insurance card and wait for the appearance of the Magic Wand which will fix you or fix that person in your life who is causing you trouble. Sad to say that Amazon.com is all out of Magic Wands and graduate school does not teach any incantations.
Our job is not to fix people; it is to support people who want to heal by using the best tools to find their strengths. Having friends to talk to is so important, but a therapist is trained to offer more than just good advice. Life gets messy and complicated and a co-pilot may be in order to navigate through and beyond the current situation. Therapy is not about blaming parents or staying stuck in the past. It’s about an increasing awareness of how these previous life circumstances impact you right now and with regard to the issue at hand.
Therapy is often about learning to cope better with all the usual stuff: relationship frustration, losses, anger, uncertainty over the future, transitioning from one situation to another, etc. Therapy can help you navigate these rocks in the road more smoothly and set you up for success on the other side of it.
It is about building trust and safety by talking to someone else about your problems, someone who provides unconditional positive regard and support. You come to see that a.) you aren’t insane b.) lots of other people share your issues and c.) things can be better. One of the things that a good therapist can offer is a way of changing the way you see a problem. Sometimes, doing that will allow you to find other solutions to a problem you previously thought was insurmountable.