A Letter To Those Considering Therapy

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The deceptive simplicity of ‘do or do not, there is no try’

10 years ago in a warm, crowded Starbucks, sitting across the table from a good friend, I finally understood, with my heart instead of my head, what it meant to begin therapy.

She stared off into the middle distance, absently tapping the table as her eyes filled with tears. “I just keep picking up the phone….and hanging up.” We were in the midst of grad school and she needed someone to talk to, needed help swimming through the sludge of depression, and felt paralyzed by a tumble of emotions and thoughts blocking her way.

First, by a fear to move from the therapist chair to the patient couch. On some level, that fear of change can hold us all. How many times have you looked longingly toward something different, a change that felt too big, too scary to consider. It almost always feels easier (in the short term) to dream instead of do.

I suspect that this fearful freezing in all of us is reinforced by the soft cultural whisper that asking for help is weakness, admitting imperfection is out of bounds. In a world of filtered Instagram pictures and Facebook perfect lives, it is hard to remember the reality…the imperfect, vulnerable, messy, expansive real lives we each lead, filled with dirty laundry, unfinished books, and big plans.

I think of my old friend and her scared stillness each time I have a missed call. The leap into therapy (insert momentous music) can feel terrifying, huge, and vulnerable.  (and yet…and yet) Yet, it is also simple. A few steps through a door, breath forming into words, telling another human your story. So it is both these things, and so much more.

And what my friend learned, I learned, thousands of people learn each day, is that therapy (more momentous music) with the right person and in the right time is, at its core, a conversation between two humans, a time to share lessons and stories and a co-navigation along the arc of our life.

Which by its very nature will be filled with joy as well as pain ... and probably a bunch of dirty laundry.

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom” –Anais Nin

My friend reached a point where her scared stillness was more difficult than a leap into the unknown of therapy. And she began a conversation that changed her life.

Written by Kerry Makin-Byrd, PhD