Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Hi, my name is Ann, and I am a therapy junkie.


Don't worry - I haven't reached a What About Bob? level of dependence, and don't plan to. But I have logged quite a few hours on the shrink couch within the past year. (Thank God for good health insurance.)

I know everyone has her own opinion of counseling. On one extreme, some people are fanatics who consider weekly sessions religious experiences and their therapist their spiritual guide. On the other are those who write off counseling as a self-help crutch for the weak, or necessary only for those with "real problems." (Or perhaps they're just scared to confront their personal demons.) Today I lean more toward the former than the latter, which wasn't always the case.

I grew up attending church regularly, at least twice a week when accounting for small group Bible studies or youth group. Going to a Christian college only doubled my church/chapel/small group quota each week. And then marrying a youth pastor perhaps tripled it. (I think I ODed on church.)

Although today I am not a church-goer, I still believe in the power of community that healthy churches can create. For me, one of my favorite aspects of church was the connections I made with other people when we shared honestly about our lives and took the risk to be vulnerable about what was really going on in our heads and hearts. Unfortunately, I think such authenticity isn't easy to find in many church communities. Too often fear of raw doubt and real questions stands in the way, and pat, cure-all answers from Scripture take the place of active listening and empathy. 

And thankfully, in the absence of church community, I have maintained and developed friendships that are my lifeblood and provide some of the truest community I have known.

But in my experience, church - and even my dearest friends - can't quite touch me the way an hour of rigorous personal examination guided by an objective, insightful third party does. It can't move me the way questioning long-held beliefs about myself and the world around me, unveiling misconstrued assumptions, and slowly transforming old behaviors and patterns of thinking can...and has. Truthfully, individual counseling has helped me to become a more mature, healthy, and whole version of myself. 

It's OK, you can be skeptical. I was, too. When my counselor invited me to join a women's support group, I nearly laughed. "Me? In a support group? Aren't those for addicts and abuse victims?" I thought. As If I am better than they. (I'm not.) Despite my pride, curiosity got the better of me, and I went for it. And I went back again. And I'm going to keep going.

Because it's nice to know that I'm not alone. It's inspiring to talk to three other women with a variety of life experiences and personal struggles, again led by the questions and outside perspective of a caring and trained individual. It's encouraging to know that although we're each very different, and our baggage comes in different shapes and sizes, we're joined simply by our humanity: the desire to love and to be loved, to know lasting joy, and to suck the life out of life...and not allow ourselves to get in the way of realizing the achieved moments of those pursuits.

We all have our issues, rocks in a bucket that we carry around with us throughout our days. We can blame these on our tramautic childhood, failed relationship(s), or unfulfilled career dreams. Most likely circumstances beyond our control have added some weight to that collective baggage. But I've learned that it's what I decide to do with my "stuff" and how I choose to live through it and beyond it that will make me or break me. 

Counseling has been a "make me" experience. So for now, I'm sticking with it.

How about you - thoughts on counseling? Good experiences? Bad?

(By the way, if you need a good therapist, let me know.)

1 comment:

Victoria Mason said...

OK- I'll be the first commenter after all this time. :)

I think therapy has a place but can be a crutch if after a while you are just going to go and your life isn't changing for the better or you are not actually working through something. It's good to go back to "check-in" too. I've had great results with it in the past for a variety of reasons and support groups too. I will say that not every therapist is a good fit.