Skrevet d. 8-12-2021 17:04:39 af Jeanette Galan Mogensen - Psykolog
Are you hesitant about going to therapy? Do you have this idea that it is only for those really ill people out there?
Are you “fine”?
Well, you might still want to go to therapy. Times are changing and it seems that newer generations want to learn from past generations’ mistakes; they want to prioritize mental health.
We see this progress in phenomena such as Simone Biles meeting massive support from the world when choosing to step down from the Olympics to take care of her mental wellbeing. And we see it when companies such as Google and Johnson & Johnson create support groups to protect and enhance the mental wellbeing of their employees.
Could therapy play a crucial part in this development? Here’s why my answer to that question is YES.
Psychology is about the thoughts, feelings, motivations, and behaviors of human beings—of us. It is about how we interpret the world, how we problem-solve a dilemma, and how we negotiate with ourselves and others to move in a meaningful direction.
It can tell us something about what happens when things go right—such as when someone from a poor socio-economic background becomes a successful scientist. And it can tell us something about when things go bad—which happens more often than you might think.
In fact, one recent scientific review showed that it is surprisingly few people who do not experience some kind of mental struggle over the course of their lives. They found that between 60% and 85% of the participants would develop symptoms that qualify for a mental illness diagnosis—just by living their own regular lives.
What does that mean? It means that most of us will experience mental struggles such as anxiety or depression at some point in our lives. It also means that seeing the ‘mentally ill’ as a deranged subcategory of people doesn’t make sense; that deranged subcategory of people are most of us.
Instead, another way of understanding the numbers is that being alive is difficult. Life will knock most of us over at some point and we will need someone to help us get out. It’s nothing but a normal and natural response to being alive.
However, that doesn’t mean we have to wait until things are ‘diagnosis’-bad before we try out therapy.
When you think of therapy, you might see it as a space for problem-solving. For example, you come in with a problematic pattern of self-critical thinking, and you want to learn how to solve it. You might expect that what happens between therapist and client is that the therapist takes out their screwdriver and loosens the self-critical screw in the client’s brain. Voila: fixed!
And while it’s true that there are real tools for the therapist to give the client, more often than not, the process of therapy is much more dynamic. There is no set formula called: get depression, get therapist to apply depression ointment, exit therapy newly birthed and glossy.
Rather, what goes on is a mutual exploration.
What this means is that therapy emerges and develops as a result of the two people involved in the exchange. The therapist will be a facilitator because of their training and academic background. The therapist can help you work deeper—and more honestly—and be a sort of guide for what areas might be important to explore.
What the client brings to the table is their desire for development. Maybe you would like to explore your values more deeply and figure out how you can build a future that helps you live by them—what kind of job to pursue or what kind of romantic relationship to try to build. Or maybe you want to understand your childhood and family history a bit better so that you get a better feel for who you—and your family members—are.
On an even more fundamental level, it means: Therapy is a space you create.
During my training as a therapist, a psychologist told me that “a client can grow much more when they aren’t in a crisis. In fact, sometimes that’s when the real work starts to happen.”
When we are flooded with emotions or distress, the main goal is to get out of the quicksand. It’s crisis management. It doesn’t leave much room for figuring out where to go once you’re back on solid ground.
Even if you’re ‘fine’, talking to a therapist can help you improve your mental health by exploring your patterns—whether they include avoiding conflicts, numbing emotions when feeling sad, or choosing a certain type of partner to date. Once you know yourself a little better, you have a better chance of making changes and avoiding your potential pitfalls. It can also help you choose with more clarity and intention; depending on the kind of therapy you engage in, a part of the work is exploring the values and meaning that drive you in this world.
Those aspects—knowing yourself, being flexible in the face of challenges, and setting an intention for your life—are a vital part of being mentally healthy.
We live in a culture that has an increasing amount of focus on health, self-care, and development; we run, lift weights, and make sure to eat healthy and balanced meals to take better care of ourselves. There’s no reason therapy can’t be an addition to this development.
If you’re interested in learning a bit more about how therapy might help you, you are more than welcome to reach out. I offer online therapy in English as well as Danish. You can find my information on Gomentor or you can take a look at my personal website linked in my profile.
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