One of my favorite things in out-patient therapy is learning about peoples preconceived ideas about what therapy is and what it isn’t. Television and movies paint a range of pictures. I’ve seen anyone from a bobble head with a string you can pull if you want to hear it say “mmmhmm” to someone who is solely concerned about how life is making you feel all the way to a psychiatrist. (psychiatrist are medical doctors who treat symptoms with medication and actually do very little counseling, which is natural cause that’s not their job or their training set they understand the brain and the chemicals needed to help it regulate). What clinical psychotherapist do is help with the treatment and coping of clinical symptoms of such things as depression and anxiety. They also help people work through the issues that interrupt our lives. In other words, while we do treat symptoms we also help people find and overcome obstacles that keep them from experiencing the joy opportunity that life offers. Let there be no confusion, the absence of symptoms does not equal joy.
One misconception that I see a lot is that the counselor is like a fast acting medication. “One hour, and I’ll feel all better.” No, that’s a Hallmark movie. People are not like a broken appliances, and therapist are not repairmen. Life’s problems were not created in an hour, and they usually will not be “cured” in an hour. Therapy when done right causes change. Change is not passive and sometimes change is not painless. What that means is on occasion you can leave a therapy session not feeling better at all. Working through pain, mistakes, conviction, fighting those false perceptions that life has taught us … these are not fun, but notworking through those things can steal our joy.
The painful part of all of this is what keeps people from changing. Like going to the dentist can sometimes be no fun at all, not going can be worse. The enemy tells you that you cannot handle the pain and discomfort and that you can’t improve anyway. This is a false conclusion. God has created us with remarkable resilience and a mind that when focused can overcome a great deal more than we can imagine.
So if you have ever gone in to therapy with the idea that after one hour you’ll always leave feeling better and your life will be changed, know that may not always be the case. If you keep coming back willing to see this through and willing to face and overcome those pains and challenges the result will be beautiful. “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23