Me? Go for Psychotherapy? Not a Chance!
Why Should I Go for Help?
People understand the concept of help. Help is what you don't have enough of.
All jobs don't break down into one-person jobs. Without help, some jobs can't be
done or, if attempted, are not likely to turn out right, imagine a business
manager doing market research, planning advertising, ordering stock, running
equipment, shipping the product, keeping books, and typing correspondence. Or
imagine a football player in charge of scouting, coaching, calling plays,
running, passing, blocking, tackling, catching passes, kicking, and making team
Some things require a team and teamwork. Marriages and families are like that.
Trying to scrape by without enough help may be an invitation to disaster. Heroic
self-sufficiency can become just plain stupidity. It takes sound judgment to
know when additional help is needed and courage to ask for it. In general,
people don't like to ask for help with their own responsibilities unless it is
Life is complicated. Tensions, anger, lack of understanding, misexpectations,
disagreements, and differences surface between people. Everyone tries his or her
best to work at it, but sometimes nothing gets resolved. The problem itself may
not be clear and, usually, the solution doesn't just fall into place. The
problems can then repeat themselves.
Sometimes people experience very disturbing feelings: depressed moods,
uncontrollable fears, heightened anxiety, or low self-esteem. Sometimes the
problem lies in a lack of control over behavior such as too much alcohol or drug
use, overeating, losing one's temper, or a persistent inability to relax. Other
troubling issues can be concerns about children, job-related stress, or
continuing physical problems such as headaches, chronic pain, and hypertension
that do not
respond to medical treatment.
In these cases, the important and sensible thing to do is to get help. It is not
an easy step. People don't usually involve outsiders with these kinds of
difficulties unless there is considerable distress and unhappiness and until
after they have tried everything else. Just because it is hard to do, however,
doesn't make it any less sensible.
Where Do I Go For Help?
When there is a major breakdown with our automobile, what action do we take?
We get someone who knows what to do and can get us going again just as soon as
possible. We do it even if it means admitting we made some mistakes or that we
can't fix everything. Usually we trust the mechanic's definition of what's wrong
and listen to the ideas on how to correct it.
We don't give up all our responsibility, though. We usually have a rough idea of
what the problem is and what will or won't work. If we sense our helper really
doesn't know what's wrong, we won't let him or her tamper with our car. in other
words, the diagnosis of the problem has to be explained to our satisfaction
before we agree to the proposed repairs. If the helper's ideas seem badly
inconsistent with our opinion, unintelligent, or off the wall, we trust our
judgment and turn to someone else.
With human problems, there is a wide range of people who may, in fact, "know
what's wrong" and can get the job done. The helper may be a family member,
relative, friend, family doctor, minister or priest, or a wise neighbor. The
personal qualities of the helper are a major factor in the success of the
We can also seek help through educators, consultants, self-help groups, and
through books and magazines.
How we view the problem has a great deal to do with how we seek assistance and
from whom. Mental health professionals, including psychologists, psychiatrists,
and marriage and family therapists, are just a few of many who may be of help.
By virtue of their training and background, we may choose these types
of professionals for the services we need. At any rate, we need to go to those
whom we trust, and that trust is a significant factor in successful
psychotherapy. Anyone seeking help should always feel free to ask professional
therapists about their training and experience. Competent professionals welcome
inquiry. As an additional safeguard, many states license the various types of
What Is Mental Health?
"Mental health" has some accuracy when the term is used to describe
conditions that require medical knowledge and intervention as a part of the
diagnostic and treatment procedure. Disorders such as psychosis, severe
depression, impairments of the brain and nervous system, substance-induced
intoxication and dependence, and psychosomatic illnesses are examples of the
close interplay between our physical and mental selves. Typically, these
problems are serious and our control is limited, though our behavior may play a
role in the treatment process.
The terminology gets fuzzy, however, when "mental health" is used to describe
conditions only peripherally related to health in the physical sense. Our
overall feeling of happiness or sense of personal well-being is related to our
perception of competence and to the quality of our life circumstances and
relationships. Many things are involved; behavior, feelings, meanings,
perspectives, self-control, achievement, choices, values, priorities,
attitudes - the essentials of human striving and meaning, it is for these kinds
of things that most people seek therapy. To call these things "mental health"
may unnecessarily confuse these universal human attributes with the serious
medical-psychological problems mentioned before. It can frighten and discourage
people who do not see their problems in that same category, and can add an extra
obstacle to overcome before seeking help from a professional.
This dilemma might be easier if we looked at our striving for personal wellbeing
as "personal management and development." We use our executive abilities to
analyze, plan, organize, act, and monitor our own behavior and to coordinate our
activities and interests with others. Just as we rely on others for management
advice with our jobs and businesses, we can take advantage of opportunities to
learn or gain management information about our personal lives (whether or
not "mental health" is the term used).
Isn’t Going For Help a Sign of Weakness?
People who seek help are special. By seeking help, the demonstrate the desire
to improve the quality of their lives and the willingness to pay the price to
accomplish this. They are true enough to their goals not to let pride or
possible stigma prevent them from getting the help they know they need. They go
because they are highly motivated to learn something new and humble enough to
recognize the value of ideas originating outside of themselves. They are
usually honest and willing to face themselves and their problems - with no
punches pulled. These are growing people who want to develop their inner
resources and coping abilities. Their qualities are to be admired.
What Is It Like To Be in Therapy?
Therapy is a special type of teaching in which the relationship itself plays
a major role in the learning process. It embraces a curious mixture of both love
and separateness, freedom and authority, relating and teaching, nurturance and
discipline, acceptance and accountability, independence and direction, support
Therapy is temporary yet powerful, caring yet objective. It is honesty and
openness stripping away falseness and pretense. It is elemental courage risking
tender feelings in a search for a new beginning. It is also difficult and can be
unpleasant. Growth is sometimes painful. Truth is often hard to face. The old
ways may be hard to give up.
The therapist takes time to listen and understand the client's views and values,
gives hope and relief, redefines the problem, identifies alternatives, expects
commitment, insists on application, and monitors results. New skills
are taught and modeled. The responsibility for providing the solution is left
in the hands of the client, as is the credit for the changes. Competence and
control are not undermined but enhanced. There is mutual respect.
There is no vested interest other than the best interest of those seeking help.
When couples or families receive help, it is the unit, not the individual, that
If people knew how different and growth-stimulating a therapeutic relationship
can be, there would no doubt be a lot more interest in it. It is not for
however. The seriousness and genuineness of the difficulties and the motivation
of the people seeking help make therapy work. It cannot be manufactured, nor can
it be prolonged when the need doesn't exist.
Will I Get Brainwashed?
The personal values of the therapist become an integral part of the
It can't be helped. Judgments about goals in therapy, method, and what
constitutes Improvement imply a definition of what is better or worse, in fact.
It is the therapist's enthusiasm and authority that enables him or her to be
An ethical therapist works with those problems posed by the client. The client's
whole belief system is not at issue. The client is prepared to be influenced, to
be exposed to the therapist's ideas and values, but is free to accept or reject
them as they pertain to the issues brought to therapy. He or she is not required
to "buy” a whole view of life or a pet theory or to be proselyted toward
anything. There are other places to go in our society if this is what is
desired. Also, any advice that violates the moral values of the client should be
suspect. The therapist, too, has an ethical obligation to point out where any
basic value differences will interfere with the relationship between therapist
and client and make the client's goal harder to obtain, and should make an
appropriate referral if necessary.
Will My Visits Be Confidential?
Another benefit of therapy is that, with very few exceptions, problems can be
shared with the knowledge that conversations are private and confidential.
Professional ethics dictate that the therapist may not discuss information about
a client without his or her informed and written consent. Confidential
relationship allows you to talk freely and openly about what necessarily are
private and personal matters without fear of unwanted disclosure, If the Problem
Involves Two People and One Refuses to Go, Is There Any Value to Therapy?
A person can benefit from clarifying the problem with someone like a therapist
and identifying ways to improve a relationship by changing personal behavior.
Sometimes the presence of one person in therapy can help bring about
communication and change without having the other person come in. However, the
process is usually quicker and there is a greater likelihood of change if both
people in a relationship come for help.
Why Is It That Some People Aren’t Helped?
Some people are forced into therapy; their minds may be made up, or they
refuse to try. Sometimes the personal characteristics of the client, despite
good intentions, work against a successful outcome. Rigidity, lack of acceptance
of oneself or others, lack of self-control, and personal insecurities may
prevent real change or growth from taking place.
Perhaps there was a mismatch between the therapist and the client. With another
combination, there might be a chance for success. Another possibility can be the
lack of skills of the therapist in dealing with that particular problem. If
progress or hope for progress isn't apparent by the third or fourth session, it
may be time to consider other alternatives.
So What Does It Cost?
Many problems respond well to short-term therapy. On an average, most therapy
lasts from four to ten sessions. Costs may range from $200 to more than $1,000,
depending on the therapist's fees and the length of treatment. Some problems may
be more serious and require help over a much longer period of time.
Some therapists and mental health centers offer a sliding fee schedule that
takes into account a person's income and family size. Also, many health
insurance policies and plans make provision for payment of a portion of the fee
for mental health services.
Without assistance, some problems do not go away. They become more complicated.
The product of therapy isn't as tangible as, for instance, a new color
television, but in terms of importance, it is generally worth every cent.
How do we put a price on an improved quality of life, personal well-being and
satisfaction, a happy and cohesive family, a marriage that is renewed and
rewarding, a drinking problem that has been mastered, or increased competence in
our work? The cost of therapy is the price we place on learning, growing, and
extending ourselves in needed and rewarding ways.
It can be money very well spent.
Not A Chance!
This information was prepared by Val G. Farmer, PhD.