Monday, January 9, 2012

Doctor, I Dream of Bacon.

I've been seeing different therapists for many years. They have always been women. I now have the opportunity to see a male therapist. I have some apprehensions. I know this person is qualified and I'm not concerned about inappropriate behavior. What is going on? 

The short answer is that you are leaving your comfort zone. Now prepare for the long answer.

Therapy is great. It's not just for diagnosable mental illness, although the insurance companies will tell you otherwise. Therapy is just a healthy way for people to work out their problems without boring their family members, who are only marginally interested in what you think that cat dream really means. Sometimes life is just confusing, so most of us eat or drink or kick the dog, but really we should be going to therapy.

I will go on long-winded rants decrying the stigma that therapy still carries and the need to "disclose" therapy like it is a criminal record. There are jobs that I think should require therapy. You can't stigmatize people if everyone is required to do it, right? Police officers, military, teachers, nurses, social workers...any high stress job that deals with people, guns or both. And I don't mean the nonsense mandated in-house therapy, where your sessions may or may not be confidential and may or may not ruin your career. Nope, get thee to a quiet business complex where a nice therapist with an affinity for ferns and throw pillows can help you work out the train wreck that is your life before you lose it and I just happen to be shopping the day you show up at the grocery store covered in pudding, looking for closure.

So now that we've established that I love therapy, it's worth mentioning that we can get too comfortable with therapy and our therapists. At that point, we may stop making progress and therapy has become an expensive social call. If you find yourself talking about the same issues, with the same person (or with similar people), you aren't really working and therapy should be work. 

Maybe you feel apprehensive about your new therapist because it is challenging your past experiences. Therapy should be challenging. You should leave feeling better, but also mentally tired, like you've just finished a crossword puzzle. Sometimes you will leave feeling as though you didn't finish the puzzle, but you have to persevere.  

If people actually read this blog, I would probably get some push back from proponents of relaxation and mindfulness techniques. I'm actually very supportive of such interventions when appropriate. If you are stressed and anxious, they are great...but sometimes you are stressed and anxious because you are repeating a negative behavior. You can relax all day, but if you are still stealing your parent's money to feed your addiction to FarmVille, you are still going to have problems. Your therapist needs to call you out on that (therapeutically, of course) and that conversation probably won't be fluffy and self-affirming. 

Your apprehension may be unrelated to your therapy goals, in which case it is still normal to fear change. Remember, though, that therapy is about change. Break out of your rut and give this guy a chance. 

Do you ever make bacon in the microwave?

I only make bacon in the microwave. I used to make it on a skillet, but I don't have the time anymore. If I can't have 3 slices of bacon in 3 minutes, I don't even want it. Plus, since I wrap the bacon in a paper towel before microwaving, there is no scalding, liquid oil to dispose of like nuclear waste, just crunchy paper towels that are apparently irresistible to dogs.

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