People who consult with me rarely ask this question directly, but it often lingers in the background. The assumed but often unstated answer emphasizes how talking to a trained clinician will help diminish problems like depression/anxiety/obsessions.
That answer, however, rarely satisfies. What people really want to know is “Why do I NEED therapy? The best response examines and challenges some complicated assumptions about dependence and self reliance.
Most people can describe why they don’t feel right, or what behaviors cause problems. Yet many feel uncomfortable translating their struggles into clinical terms. Almost every life comes with its obstacles, if not traumas, due to the fact that not every parent can do right by their kids as well as social, historical and sometimes even environmental realities. We all share in the totality of human suffering. Every individual experiences his or her own part of pain’s universal reality.
That being the case it can be hard to justify needing therapy. Many believe that a person can’t “need” and be “independent” at the same time. The romantic notions of a “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” mythology colide with the realistic necessity of interdependence. People need and help each other in order to survive. Building or doing anything requires willpower, hard work and mutual, shared interactions with others.
Try thinking of therapy this way.
The word therapy originates from the Greek therapeuin , “to cure, treat medically” or more literally to “attend, do service, take care of .” This ancient use of the word better explains therapy in a manner that avoids the dichotomy between dependence and independence.
So, why therapy?
Therapy helps you attend to your self in a manner that enables you to serve others in your life and in our world. A therapist teaches you how to move the “who you are” – your temperament, hardwiring and cultural background – to the “who you aspire to be.”
The answer to “why therapy” might, therefore, sound like this: “because I aspire to be more than I am and for the world to be more than it is. An interactive dialogue with someone who has similar goals and knows a lot about people might help me get there.”