There are many people out there who would like to begin a therapeutic relationship, but who are afraid to take that first step. I thought I could write a few columns dispelling the most common concerns people have expressed to me, while talking about their conflicted feelings about starting therapy and what the process of therapy often looks like, though it’s different for everyone.
The No. 1 reason people hesitate usually sounds something like this: “Isn’t it a bit narcissistic/self-important/strange to be focusing that time on yourself?”
Before I answer that, let me ask you something in return. Do you spend time on exercise (or know you should) to keep your body healthy? Do you eat well? Do you go to your doctor for regular check ups, see your chiropractor or acupuncturist or other allied health provider for the same thing? Those things are incredibly important for physical and emotional well-being and definitely part of the mental health package.
On the flipside, when we attend to our mental health more deliberately, we’re even better able to sustain our physical health as we address issues of motivation, stress and feelings that we’re stuck. From my vantage, willingness to work on your mental health is the opposite of navel-gazing. When we look at the places that we feel stuck, we often learn that feeling causes us to react to things in ways we wish we wouldn’t. Not looking at them isn’t helping us feel more healthy and it’s not making our relationships more healthy. We don’t grow by avoiding; we grow by embracing the lessons we’ve learned and our humanness.
Some of the most relationship damaging comments, actions and arguments happen because we’re angry and we don’t really know why. A conflict might seem like it’s just about an item that was forgotten, a disagreement over a bill, a frustration about mixed messages or crossed wires, something that was truly inconvenient and irritating but even when we think about it after, we know our response is bigger than the incident. Those feelings that exist under the surface drive all of us and when we are able to consider them, they lose a lot of power, which, in turn, allows us to be much more present in our relationships.
Those feelings and reactions don’t have to be there because of a horrific childhood or other big dramatic something. For many people, the day-to-day stress of the word is enough to nudge them to become more easily frustrated or less giving than they would like to be.
Therapy is a little like anything that helps us be healthier in ourselves and our relationships. This doesn’t mean you have to see a therapist every week for a year, though for some people, that can be a really good and healthy option. You and your therapist can work together to come up with a plan that suits your particular needs.
Colleen Deatherage, MSW, RSW, is a clinical counsellor practicing as part of the Full Circle Health team. Full Circle Health Centre also offers Chinese medicine, acupuncture, physiotherapy and chiropractic services. For more information, call the clinic at 250-402-2044.