Monday, May 07, 2007

Before Considering Therapy

“The unexamined Life is not worth living.” Socrates

When Socrates wrote this famous statement, psychotherapy wasn’t an option. However, examining the inner workings of one’s life is perhaps the most important exploration left for man. Mankind has explored most of the earth and is beginning to explore the heavens, but very little is know about the interior workings of the human psyche. The human spirit is at least 95% unconscious and exploring the hidden dark caves of the soul is brave hard work.

Psychotherapy can certainly be taken to extremes. Woody Allen has made a profitable career joking about such excess. In one of his movies Woody complained his therapist was not being effective, and he joked he would give him another six years to see if anything would get better. However, the time of excessive psychotherapy sessions has past. Clients are now focused upon solution-oriented therapy where a problem is presented and a solution is sort. Such therapy is typically called brief therapy, meaning that it lasts from five to twenty sessions over a six to twelve month time period.

Therapy is a place to explore your feelings and the circumstances of your life. In this exploration, the therapist is not an expert who knows what you should do with your life, rather the therapist offer a safe and confidential place for you to go to discover how you feel and what you can do about these feelings, and the current conditions in your life.

The most important qualities you need to look for in choosing a therapist is the openness and freedom you feel in talking with that therapist. If you feel restrained or uneasy, they are the wrong therapist for you. Perhaps you are not ready to do this work with any therapist, and that merely means the time is not right for you to explore your unconscious mind. There will be times when you will not like what you are examining about your life, and at these times a good therapist may support you by holding your focus to the matters at hand. Growth is uncomfortable, and it is easy to get upset with the therapist because you are looking at issues about your own life you do not like to examine. In such cases it might be tempting to hold the therapist responsible for your life, but if they are competent, they will not accept that responsibility nor demand you continue to examine what you are not capable of exploring.

Psychotherapy is a service that costs money. For some reason, some people resent this aspect of therapy. Perhaps it is because the therapist is viewed as a substitute parent, and our society expects parents to provide everything without any cost to the child. Or perhaps it is because therapists are viewed as society views the clergy. We expect spiritual guidance within a church to be free of charge. Whatever the issues people have with money and therapy, the solution is to know exactly what your sessions will cost before you begin therapy. Once you have booked a therapy session that time has been sold to you and you will be responsible to pay if you miss your session or don’t give 24-hour notice of a change. The therapist is a trained professional who is making the equivalent amount that plumbers or electricians make. Therapists are required to have 6 to 10 years of education beyond high school, and another 3 to 5 years in training before they are licensed to practice. Family lawyers typically charge $350 to $450 per hour to assist their clients end their marriage, while marriage therapists typical charge $100 to $250 per hour and they assist you to save your marriage.

May I finally speak to the issue of using your friends for marital therapy rather than a trained professional who is bound by law to keep confidential everything you share in therapy? Nothing poisons the well of marriage more than the need to tell all your friends about the distress in your marriage. Whenever you see these people, they shall always begin the conversation with,” how is your marriage”? This will become the main topic of conversation every time you get together. It will become a tar baby you cannot release yourself from. You then become reduced to a reality TV show for the amusement and entertainment of others. And, they probably shall tell all their friends about your broken marriage. Better to pay a professional who is trained to keep confidential what should be held sacred and private.