You Need Therapy!

by Kellie Medendorp, LCSW, CFRC

Do we need therapy?

No. That’s right, the therapist is telling you that most people don’t NEED therapy (there may be exceptions for those living with chronic and severe psychological illnesses that may be best and most safely managed with the help of a clinician who specializes in treating those conditions). I’ve actually had this conversation with a few people over the yearswhere I’ve flat out said my job shouldn’t exist. Let me explain. If you have experience with therapy or know a therapist, then you understand that our job is to be a skilled and attentive listener to our clients to help them better understand their experiences and decide, when they are ready, to make change and what those changes will look like. In theory, a trusted friend or family member could fulfill this role, if we lived in a society that prioritized mindfulness, slowing down, and really listening to what someone is telling you. However, the world that we live in doesn’t give us much grace or ability to be this person for those we care about.

But my response still stands- no, we do not “need” therapy to survive, but it is an extremely helpful treatment when someone is open to giving it a chance. During my time as a therapist, I have come across very creative coping skills from a variety of people. We can drink to deal with whatever is causing us distress while holding down a job, paying our bills, and meeting the needs of our family and friends. Replace “drink” with any of the following coping skills- gamble, shop, work more, go out more, have sex, game more, eat, travel, use substances, obsess over ___, watch more sports, seek more adrenaline…this list could go on
and on.

No, you don’t necessarily need therapy if you are already doing some of these things. You may be getting by ok with these ways of coping with life. However, the question I always ask my clients is “what is your quality of life like?” That’s what is most important to me as a therapist, a responder, and a person. We all knew we could get through school with passing grades, but is that enough for you? Does your drinking cost you anything (time, experiences, memories)? What about working too much? Shopping and gambling? Filling all of your free time with plans?

Do you want to improve your quality of life? If your answer is yes, then therapy gives you the opportunity to do so. Therapists aren’t here to “fix” you, tell you what to do, assume what’s best for you, have all the answers, or make the really difficult things disappear. Therapists help you work on the areas of life you are concerned about and want to make better. They support you in figuring out what you want and need to do for yourself. Therapy is a gift you give yourself of protected time and space to consider your needs and goals with an attentive listener who is there to support you in reaching them.