Trying to Understand How Therapy Works

I’m trying to understand why therapy works. I’ve been through it several times with several different therapists, in different cities and through different spells in my life, and I can honestly say it’s been a positive experience and perhaps the most intimate one in my life.

That feels odd to say that, but it is true. I guess to those of us who use mental health therapy, the intimacy of it is something of a given. Yet it seems counter-intuitive that the person you share the most with is not a relative or good friend. Certainly the first reason for that would seem to be that to the therapist your life has no real impact. What you do does not affect them so your situation, your mental state, is not an issue. It is just their job. You provide them with their daily bread as it were. And you get an analysis of what you are and what you’re doing that is free of the bias of someone who would prefer you were one way or another as anyone who is involved in your life would likely be.

Now it is not completely untrue that a therapist does not have a preference for how you are. They want you to adopt or live by a set of standards that align with what they define as your mental health. So, after a fashion there is a similarity between what they want and what your family might want. Where then is the difference? Perhaps ultimately there really isn’t one, but the therapist is well trained and focused on your issues. They are professionals. That’s obviously what you’re paying for.

Ultimately the goal is to get you to do what you want, what you state at the outset of therapy. Over the years I’ve evolved my needs in therapy to be I think more targeted and less narcissistic than they once were. I know “narcissistic” is a loaded word, and I certainly don’t mean to imply that everyone’s therapy needs are ever narcissistic. I mean only to say that when I was younger I believe mine were. And there was maybe a good reason for that. Back then, in my early twenties, my needs were driven by desperation. I was living on the edge back then. Poor with an uncertain future, living on a prayer as Bon Jovi might say. At that time my therapy was as much about me complaining about that, not trying to fix it, because I could not get myself to a place where I could reasonably fix it. It just was impossible. I think an analogy to what I was doing would be that of a poverty stricken person using heroin. Therapy helped me cope even if it didn’t help me get out of my straits. When I was struggling as I was, alone and afraid and living on meager means, I used therapy as a drug, as a means of making myself feel better, as a means of shouting, of criticizing, of acting out in a safe place, really of being me, or showing off me because the rest of the world did not care or did not afford me a stage to be me as I saw it. So, in effect, it was a healthy outlet.

Now I’m a little better, and I realize I have to take the next therapeutic step. I have much greater means now, but the means are still insecure. I realize now I must take the non-narcissistic step of getting out of myself and being practical much more so than I’ve ever been.

Thus is my next step…

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