This newsletter is a bit different from our usual tone. As many of you know, my Dad died just a few weeks ago, very suddenly. First, a huge thank you to all of you who scheduled and rescheduled your appointments, and for your understanding and compassion as I had to leave town two weeks in a row. Losing a parent is certainly the hardest thing that I have ever been through, as those of you who have also lost a parent already know.
At Albuquerque Family Counseling, we spend a great deal of time talking with you about the benefits of self care, as a tool that should be used not just when in crisis, but even in times of stability. Do you ever wonder if we actually “walk the talk”? If we truly believe in the value of what we do as therapists, how do we handle our own transitions and life crises?
In answer to that question, yes, we do. I knew immediately when the situation with my Dad arose, I would not be able to handle it on my own and solicited referrals from several other therapists that I trust. I started sessions with a counselor who specializes in grief, and it is some of the best money that I have ever spent. Having a safe, supportive place to go to work through my feelings, gain additional tools for coping, recognize my strengths and bear up my weaknesses is invaluable to my mental health. It’s hard to ask for help- even someone who spends all of their time in helping others realizes that- but it is a necessary element of a healthy mental attitude.
Long before there were therapists, there were family members. Relatives listened, or gave us advice, or sometimes just told us to buck up. If family couldn’t help, there were friends or a clergy member. But most likely, we were also warned not to broadcast our troubles, and many people suffered their mental problems silently.
Times change, and so has society’s acceptance of seeking help. The old stigma of being seen as weak or incapable is largely gone, helped by many who are open about their life struggles. Going to a therapist is now seen as a positive step in most people’s lives. Therapy is a unique relationship and what makes it valuable sets it apart from friendships, working partnerships, family connections and love affairs. Good therapy is a balance in which two people are collaborating on a single project: helping you deal with your problems and achieve the change you want, in one unique agenda.
It’s the simplicity of that agenda, combined with a structured schedule, confidentiality and trust that make this unique relationship work so well for so many people. Rather than proof that someone is “sick,” it is a sign of good health to make a commitment to change.
The strength of therapy is that there are no strings attached. Here are some further benefits of the therapeutic relationship:
1. Safety. If the relationship is right, you can feel safe to reveal your fears, dreams and fantasies without fear of repercussions or judgment on the part of the therapist. Unlike telling a friend or family member, your words to a therapist won’t come back to haunt you.
2. Confidentiality. The therapist is bound by ethics and law (except in a few well-defined cases) not to reveal what you have said during sessions. This adds to the feeling of safety and trust, and aids in people making changes.
3. Learning. Therapy can be seen as a deeply educational experience, in which a therapist acts like a coach or teacher to help the client see the world-inner and outer-in new and positive ways.
Into each life some rain must fall, and we all have felt deluged at least once in our lives. Grief, loss, anger, financial hardship, relationship problems, stresses-all of these are a normal part of life. So is seeking help when coping is just too hard. In the end, it’s your life, and you know best how to make it a richer, happier and more fulfilling one-with a little help. Life is short- make it the best that you can.