by Adam Lencioni
“Maybe I should see someone about this,” is a thought that most of us have had from time to time but likely do our best to resist. Or perhaps even worse – a friend or family member notices that you are struggling and says, “you should probably see someone about that.” We begin to assume there is something “wrong” with us, or that therapy is only for “crazy” people.
Our mind then takes us on a journey right into the therapist’s office where we begin to imagine ourselves meeting this complete stranger who claims to be some sort of expert at life. We sit on their comfortable, but not too comfortable couch and immediately feel forced to share our innermost thoughts, fears and experiences. Some of which we wouldn’t dream of sharing with the people closest to us, or even to ourselves in the privacy of our own mind. Trapped under a pile of fear, shame, and doubt we are left paralyzed.
Psychotherapy has become a fancy term for what many ancient societies had naturally embedded into their culture. It was not uncommon for someone to seek guidance from a village elder, or confide in a spiritual leader. For centuries, we have put resources in place to help make sense of a life that can be terribly confusing and painful.
Evolution has given us the gift (and curse) of an extremely powerful and dynamic brain, albeit with no instructions. Imagine placing a newborn baby in the cockpit of a spaceship with no user manual. So we go to school and trust that we are being taught the tools for a successful life. For the majority, our schooling rarely touches upon such nuances and focuses solely on teaching us the subjects such as math and science. We then come home to our parents asking us what grade we got on our spelling test, not necessarily discussing topics on what it looks like to Create Healthy Boundaries in Relationships. Now imagine all of this happening in a culture that teaches us individualistic values, emphasizing academic achievement over all else, and reinforcing the notion that reaching out for help implies some form of weakness.
Yes – it could seem strange at first, but starting therapy is one of the most sensible decisions a person can make for themselves. We begin to examine our life with the help of an objective, nonjudgmental person who has very specific training to guide you in the process – similar to that of a teacher, and you as the student in a classroom. We gather tools and insight to be used in the face of life’s challenging moments. We begin to discover that there is nothing “wrong” with us, but rather we are merely human in a sometimes inhumane world.
But what about the dreaded first session?
Similar to the anxiety you may feel before a first date or interview, that same anxiety will probably rear it’s ugly head before that first session. At times I’ve had prospective clients schedule a session only to get cold feet. It’s important to remember that pushing through that fear/anxiety is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that arises from a feeling of helplessness.
If you are still on the fence, I strongly encourage watching this short video from the people at The School of Life.
Thinking of seeking help from a licensed therapist?
There are plenty of resources to find a therapist in your area. I recommend speaking with your primary doctor, searching on sites such as Psychology Today, or asking a trusted friend or family member for a recommendation. It’s important to find a counselor that you vibe with. As I always say, give up on a therapist before giving up on therapy.
Adam Lencioni is a licensed mental health counselor, helping individuals and couples address their personal obstacles to create flourishing and satisfying lives. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org