Patrick and I are in couple’s therapy. Don’t gasp. We’re ok.
One of the mistakes people make is waiting until they’re in a full-blown crisis to seek help from a therapist. Too often people wait to make an appointment until it’s too late, when there’s nothing left to save, when too much damage has been done, when the only option left is navigating how to dissolve a marriage. I didn’t want to make that mistake with Patrick. I was realizing that we were coming into a new phase of our lives. I wanted guidance to usher us through the impending mid-life issues that were creeping into our relationship as we age.
It’s not always fun to sit in our sessions, but I do feel closer to him than ever – a wonderful thing to say after 20 years. We are honest and we are growing. And sometimes we even laugh. After our last session Patrick said, “Wow, that was really great. Good session.” I said, “Really?!!! I felt nauseous the whole time.” We couldn’t help but laugh at how differently each of us felt during the hour. It’s all a bit scary. I definitely feel out on a ledge sometimes, but we both believe it’s a marvelous asset to the foundation of our marriage.
Some people have negative thoughts about psychotherapy. Through the decades it has been thought of as icky, or at best, futile. Many think of it as vain or ridiculous or as if you’re just paying to have a friend.
But I don’t see it as any of those things.
I see therapists as people who can guide you on a path of discovery with useful language and techniques that help you grow, prosper, and ground you. How is this different than a mentor? That’s a valid question. The difference is that a therapist is a trained professional who knows how to differentiate their own agenda and personal experiences from yours. No matter how brilliant or wise a friend or mentor is, their advice and guidance will inevitably come to you colored by their own experiences and spiritual agenda. A therapist can divorce themselves of their own story and focus solely on you discovering yours. And it’s not all touchy-feely-gooey wallowing and victimization either. Even through the unavoidable subjectivity, there’s a real science to psychotherapy with effective applications that provide you with insights and tools to utilize and improve your life.
There may be concern that therapy is too expensive or not worth the money. It is true that decent therapists tend to be pricey, but let’s take money off the table for a moment. Psychotherapy is offered in free clinics in many cities. Also most therapists are covered by insurance now. It is considered legitimate. Patrick and I get reimbursed a large percentage of the cost by our insurance.
I know I’m not talking to all of you, but just for argument sake, let’s hypothesize that many of you go to professionals for all kinds of things that others would call frivolous – haircuts and color, manicures, pedicures, waxing, perhaps even Botox (and these things are not gender specific either). Why wouldn’t you go to a professional for something as precious as your mental health and stability? To be clear, I mean if it were indeed a viable option in terms of your finances and insurance.
I was with a friend the other day, someone who is very enlightened and open and progressive, and even she said I was making her think differently about therapy. She found it fascinating that we were discussing it because she had just read an article in New York Magazine about the very subject . . . Is therapy silly? She forwarded the article to me. I have to admit that though the article is pro-therapy, it made me cringe a bit because I thought some of what the author brought up as negatives, resonated as true — insomuch as how people approach therapy sometimes. It must be said, with any practice — a dentist, a doctor, a teacher, a plumber . . . there are good ones and bad ones. Let’s assume I’m speaking of therapists who are quite good at their jobs. But in any case, if you are like said friend, and have always thought of psychotherapy as hogwash, maybe I’ve shed a little light on the subject for you, too.
For me, it’s totally worth it.