What Is Therapy And Why Would I Want It?

 

What Is Therapy And Why Would I Want It?

Posted by Michael Kimmel in Columns 16 Mar 2015

michaelWhen I was a kid in small-town Ohio, my grandma told me, “Only crazy people get therapy. Don’t be crazy.” End of advice.

This is a typical response to therapy for some folks. We think that we should be able to handle our own problems without much help and, if we don’t, that we’re weak.

If only life were that simple.

I didn’t start off in life wanting to be a therapist. I wanted to design cars. Then, later, I wanted to be a musician. “Therapist” was far from my first choice of career (way below “rock star”). Yet, at this point in time, I am so glad it’s become my life’s work.  Here’s why:

I get to listen to and talk with people and help them figure out how to change their lives, face their challenges and share their triumphs. I don’t give advice. I am a resource; not a fountain of wisdom.

What I aspire to be is a personal trainer for your mind. At my gym, when you hit a plateau and can’t move past it, you get help from a trainer who can observe you, make suggestions and help you change your routine.

Therapists aren’t so different.

I help people who have hit plateaus and feel stuck. I support people who want to fine-tune their lives to get the old, interfering shit out of the way. And, if you’ve had a really rough life or childhood , I can help you recover your confidence again and let go of the old belief systems that keep you bored and unhappy.

I would never have become a therapist had I not had really good therapy of my own. When I first realized – in college – that a therapist could help me with my emotional baggage, I entertained the idea that maybe I could do this for others (a nice idea, but first I needed to design cars and be in a dozen rock bands).

Becoming a therapist is a long, tough road: it takes a minimum of 6 years of college, 2 more years of supervised hours and then 2 intense exams to make sure you’ve got the basics.

Being a great therapist, however, is more about learning from your life experiences than what you studied in therapist school. In my experience, the best therapists are in their 60’s and 70’s. These folks have a lot of wisdom, have been through a lot themselves and worked with hundreds of clients. They are wise, experienced and calm. I turned 60 in June, so I am just beginning my best years as a therapist.

I love the work I do. Really. It makes me high. And here are my favorite things to assist clients with:

  • Healthy sexuality and intimacy
  • Recovery from physical, verbal and sexual abuse
  • Self-esteem, body image and social skills
  • Working with difficult emotions like anger, fear and jealousy
  • Moving through important life transitions
  • Finding  meaning, joy and purpose in your life.
  • Helping to save an important relationship that’s in trouble.

As your psychotherapist, I will encourage you to talk about what’s troubling you. Don’t worry if initially you find it hard to open up about your feelings. My job is to help you do that.

Our work together may involve intense emotional discussions: you may find yourself crying, upset or even having an angry outburst during a session. I am there to support you through this stuff so you can learn from it and use it to change your life.

As a client, I give you “homework” — activities or practices that build on what you learn during your therapy sessions. Homework speeds up the change process considerably.

Many research studies have found that therapy helps improve your mood, change the way you think and feel about yourself, and improve your ability to cope with problems.

If I could talk with my grandma now – she died many years’ ago – I’d tell her: “Grandma, smart people with problems go to therapy. Why suffer?”