What's the point of therapy? Lessons I've learned
Ten years ago, if you'd asked me, "What's the point of therapy?" I honestly wouldn't have known what to say. I probably wouldn't have thought there was a point – after all, therapy is for Americans, and rich Americans at that. Fast forward a decade, skip through a depression diagnosis, years of trial and error with medication and therapists, and I'd have a whole lot more to say on the subject. Quick recap: If you've been following me for a while, you'll already know that I suffer from depression; I talk about it enough! If you're a new follower, welcome! You can catch up on my depression story – it's less depressing than it sounds, I promise – here, then come right back to us!
I've been seeing my current therapist for – well, almost exactly a year, actually. I didn't realise, until I sat down to write this, that it had been that long. Going to therapy is a bit like being on holidays, in that the time moves slightly more slowly – probably because I've been waiting to be "fixed", or for that thing to "click". You know, the "thing" that Hollywood makes us believe exists: a moment when I'll look at my therapist and she'll look at me and we'll have experienced a revelation that solves all of my problems. Right?
Wrong – therapy, like so much in life, isn't that straightforward. But the past year of seeing my therapist once a week, for 50-minute sessions, has taught me a lot, both about myself and about therapy.
There's no 'one size fits all' therapist
As I say in the video above, it took me a couple of therapists to find the right "fit", and it's only now, now that I've truly started to feel comfortable with my therapist, that I think I'm a bit closer to understanding what that even means. It's not about finding a therapist who understands you, really; it's about finding a therapist you believe understands you.
Does that sound confusing? Basically, it's this: previous therapists I went to, I somehow had an idea – because of how they spoke or how they dressed – of what they were thinking about me. In my head, they were judging me for some perceived slight, and it made me feel as if I couldn't truly be myself in front of them. In hindsight, I think I didn't give it long enough; with each, I did maybe 3-4 sessions, and I really think that if I'd waited maybe 10-12 sessions, I would have lost that paranoia. Because that's all that it was – a self-consciousness that originated from and belonged entirely to me, and had nothing whatsoever to do with them.
That being said, the "fit" is important – but it's the idea that you have of what fits, and what that means. Therapy is expensive, after all, so if you don't feel like you're getting anywhere, move on. Try another therapist. What works for me won't work for you, and vice versa. So you just keep trying.
There will be loads of teeny tiny Eureka moments – not just one
Going into my therapy experience, I honestly expected that, in one of our sessions, we would uncover – like an acorn buried in summertime – the crux of every single one of my problems, in a repressed memory from my childhood. At some stage, we'd get to talking about something I had totally forgotten, and in that forgotten memory we'd find a trauma that had essentially had a butterfly effect on the rest of my life.
Well, in my experience, that's both true and not true. Sure, I've had moments where I've gone, "fuck, that's why I do that", or – more frequently – where I feel like I understand other people better. It's usually when we're talking about how I feel like something's happened because the person hates me, or I'm a bad friend, and my therapist helps me to understand that, actually, their behaviour is about them, not me. And these moments are super-significant; they've allowed me to modify my behaviour and given me a better understanding of myself and of other people.
No, I don't feel "cured" – and I don't think I ever will be, because I don't think there's anything "wrong" (for want of a better word) with me. But I love having those kind of shock moments, where things suddenly fit together, like a jigsaw that's had a tiny piece missing for all these years.
Therapy will change you
I'd have to start interviewing my friends and family to figure out if this is actually true, but I really feel like going to therapy has changed me – in a really good way.
For one, I have someone I tell all of my worries to, in a dedicated space and time, which means that I'm in less of a frenzy to share all of my problems with all of my friends. Before therapy (BT?), I used to ask the advice of everyone I knew, whenever I had a problem I needed to solve. Now, I ask my therapist, which must be a welcome relief for my nearest and dearest.
But above and beyond all that, those tiny moments of revelation have allowed me to see myself, and others, in a totally new – and weirdly forgiving – light. It's as if I've come to terms with myself; I've discovered and accepted some of my foibles, and kind of dug into them to figure out why is it that I'm so impatient, or that I get easily frustrated with my boyfriend. And it's not that my behaviour has necessarily changed hugely, but it's that I understand where it's coming from now, and I don't get upset or angry with myself over it, so it seems less significant.
Then, when it comes to other people, it's as if there's this really weird moment where I can kind of look at them and go, oh, I know why you're doing that. I feel like I don't get angry as quickly – or as often – as I used to, and I'm definitely not as self-conscious. It's a bit of a relief; I find myself saying, pretty often, that I feel quite zen, which is a word that most definitely was not in my vocabulary BT.
It's expensive – but essential
So, they're telling the truth when they say therapy is expensive; I think sessions cost an average of around €75 per go, and if you go once a week – which most therapists recommend, at least in the beginning – that's a little over €300 a month, which is basically half my rent. HALF MY RENT, gone in less than an hour.
It was a pretty hard pill to swallow in the beginning; I could, essentially, have been buying myself a new pair of River Island skinnies every single week, for the price I was paying to sit down and talk (and cry a lot, I won't lie) to a stranger.
But something weird happened in my brain when I recategorised it, and actually it was because of a conversation I had, in therapy, about how I feel like my money just spends itself. My therapist pointed out that I basically don't consider certain necessary expenses as "necessary"; therapy, rent, petrol, all felt like stupid things that my money just "got" spent on. Unless I ended up with something I could touch, it didn't count as an outgoing – or, rather, it didn't register as something that was worth spending my money on.
That was one of my little revelation moments. Once I stopped thinking about how all of this money was just "spending itself" on stupid shit I didn't want – like, yeah, rent – and accepted the fact that I am an adult with regular outgoings, one of which is therapy, well, it wasn't such a hard sell any more. The €75-odd I spend on therapy each week is €75 I would perhaps be spending on drinking (which I don't do), going out (which I rarely do) or haircuts (which the lovely folk at PREEN give me, free of charge). So, y'know, it's not so bad.
If someone asks you, 'What's the point of therapy?', tell them to f*ck off
This goes, in fact, for all questions about therapy. I sometimes talk about my therapy – sure, if you follow me on Snapchat, you'll have seen me talking about it – but other times, I don't. It's mine; it's my time to talk and think about my mind and my hopes and my fears and my feelings, and while there are moments when I value people's input, there are other moments when I don't.
Like so much else in life (including, but not limited to, fake tan choices, supermarket wars, medication, teeth whitening), people can be incredibly interfering and, more often than not, I regret asking them for their opinions on what I've discussed with my therapist.
So my new tack is to give statements, rather than questions; I'll explain what we discovered, or what we discussed, but I won't ask for input or suggestions – that's what I'm paying my therapist for. Family and friends? They're not getting paid – they just have to shut up and listen because they love me. What's the point of therapy? It's none of your business.
If you have any questions about therapy, depression or medication, feel free to leave a comment below or drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I try to get back to every email; if I don't, ping it to me again as a reminder!