Let’s talk about therapy

Once upon a time, I was embarrassed to tell people I was in therapy. Stereotypes about psychotherapy abound and the stigma surrounding mental health only serves to reinforce them. Now that I’m going to therapy twice a week, it comes up a lot more often in conversation and I’m not ashamed to talk about it.

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines psychology as the scientific study of the mind and behavior. Psychology, as a word in Modern English, comes from two Ancient Greek words, psyche, meaning mind or soul, and logia, which, when appended to a noun, indicates an area of study or expertise. Psychiatry, which comes from the same Ancient Greet root (psyche) and another Ancient Greek word, iatros, meaning healer, describes the medical practice of studying and treating mental illness, emotional disturbances, and abnormal behavior. Psychiatrists, who are medical doctors, prescribe medications and may also offer talk therapy to their patients. Medication-only psychiatry involves longer initial consultations with shorter regular checkups, to evaluate how the drugs are working. Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is delivered mostly by individuals trained in psychology, social work, or counseling, many of whom are not medical doctors. It can take different forms depending on the needs of the patient. My recovery is focused on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) theory.

Often, people will enter therapy with the intention of addressing a specific issue in their life, maybe conflict with their romantic partner, trouble connecting with their children, or a particularly stressful time at work. CBT is especially well suited to helping individuals work through these types of challenges because it is focused on identifying the root cause and developing a pragmatic solution. For others, like me, CBT facilitates us wandering in the woods, so to speak.

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

J. R. R. Tolkien

Metaphorically, I keep turning over rocks, looking behind trees, and scanning the landscape in my mind. On account of numbness and a chronic lack of introspection concerning the external factors contributing to my depression, I need to first understand what’s going on with me. It’s a slow and uncomfortable process.

1 Comment

  1. A colleague described it to me many years ago as “a voyage of discovery.” So it is; but not every voyage of discovery finds spice islands, or gold, or the fountain of youth. Sometimes the natives are unfriendly and the beaches strewn with sea urchins and jellyfish. But the voyage is valuable nonetheless.

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