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    What exactly is therapy?

    When people think of therapy, they typically assume it’s the treatment of serious mental disorders or years and years of psychoanalysis. They might think of the extremes of mental conditions seen in films like Cybil or One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Cartoonists often depict therapy with the client lying down on a stiff couch and the cold, aloof psychiatrist sipping a cup of tea off to the side. Then there’s the comedy film What About Bob in which a psychiatric patient follows his egotistical psychiatrist on vacation. When the unstable Bob befriends the other members of the psychiatrist’s family, it pushes the doctor over the edge.

    The above are stereotypes and not the norm. Going to therapy does not mean you’re “crazy”. It doesn’t mean you’re weak or mentally ill. In fact, going for therapy is very often a sane, smart decision. Recognizing that you might need the support of a professional actually demonstrates that you are, like every other person, fully human. We human beings are wired to make connections with others. So recognizing the need for help allows us to be interdependent with other people who can come alongside and offer guidance and support at a time when it’s needed most. That is not crazy! That is wisdom. That is strength. That is fully human and fully normal.

    So, what is therapy? Therapy is about dealing with pain…all levels and degrees of pain that can be short term or last for years, even decades. The pain can be the result of abuse, trauma or deep loss in primary or significant relationships. It can be the consequence of our one’s own choices or the result of others’ abuse or neglect.

    Typical ways of dealing with the pain are to ignore, deny or just push it further down. But, eventually, those ways of coping can lead to deeper sadness; depression; anger; compulsive behaviors; and lack of motivation, energy and drive.

    Self-help books and tools are helpful to an extent, offering useful information and insight; but they don’t necessarily heal the wounds. Because abuse happens in relationships, significant healing also occurs in a healthy relationship.

    The primary goal of my work—and the role of any marriage and family therapist—is to provide a supportive relationship and safe environment in which individuals can look at and effectively deal with the issues associated with abuse, trauma and spirituality or relationship crises.

    Always, the end goal in my work, is to help individuals or couples come to a place where they can be the person or couple they were meant to be—functioning  and relating in healthy and meaningful ways in their home, marriage, workplace, and community.

    Self-help books and tools are helpful to an extent, offering useful information and insight; but they don’t necessarily heal the wounds. Because abuse happens in relationships, significant healing also occurs in a healthy relationship.

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