You may be tired of hearing some, all, or more than just the following:
- You’re not trying hard enough.
- You didn’t stick it out.
- It won’t work if you miss an appointment.
- Why aren’t you in therapy?
- You should be in therapy.
If so, this post may be for you.
I once had a psychotherapist ask me to beat her couch with a plastic bat at the start of each session. When our time was up, she’d ask if I finished reading her copy of The Drama Of The Gifted Child, which I unintentionally kept long after I stopped abusing her sofa. A decade later, it may still be in the stack of psychology and self-help literature I keep in my closet. Most likely, it was tossed. It’s important for me to throw away what is useless and nonsensical, from literature to therapy, which usually reinforces my suspicion that psychotherapy is not my answer (at least not in the way that many people with mental illness hope it will be).
If your history with therapy is also fraught with disappointment, the following thought process may provide insight into your own struggle with psychotherapy:
I want therapy to help so badly.
If I put in the time, apply the technique, repeat the technique, avoid toxic stressors, face unavoidable stressors, add healthy living, uncover my past, cry more, or cry less, it will finally work and I’ll get closer to who I was before mental illness, right? Wrong. Therapy as I’ve experienced it simply hasn’t made a dent in my mental health condition. What I struggle with responds best to biological intervention, not behavioral modification. But maybe…
I’m doing therapy wrong.
This can’t be true, though—I’m doing what I’ve learned and trying it over and over, day after day, year after year. I’m applying the method as I’ve been instructed to, desperately hoping it will work as advertised. Just like the methods I’ve tried before, however, this one is not working. So maybe…
It’s still not the right therapy for me.
It’s possible, so I remain open to trying new techniques. In the meantime, I will no longer fool myself with the possibility that there’s a psychological technique out there that holds the secret to adequately relieving madness. Losing this illusion frees up time for me to focus on interventions that have a better chance of helping. In the past, antidepressant medications helped a lot, but that help has diminished over time. Given that I was helped by medications, which directly alter my body’s chemistry, I now search for potential breakthroughs that affect my biology as opposed to my psychology. One of these breakthrough interventions is Ketamine infusion for depression and other mental illnesses, a treatment that I’m invested in learning about. Whether I decide to try Ketamine infusion or another new treatment…
Would I still consider being in therapy even if it’s not the answer?
Yes, because a good therapist is an asset in suicide prevention, overall safety, and developing self-esteem. Mental illness is an ongoing battle that challenges the foundation of what makes a person a person. Sometimes it takes someone else to provide you with the knowledge that you are more than just your symptoms for you to make it through a single day. And just like the mentally well, you’ll experience typical life problems (often exacerbated by your condition), which a good therapist can help sort out. In my experience, a good therapist cannot fix what’s holding me back, but can convince me to keep going despite it.
If you’ve experienced bliss through the encouraged abuse of a therapist’s couch, keep at it. I support most forms of help as long as they don’t damage the people involved. But if you feel multiple attempts at various therapies have failed, and you’re tired of flogging yourself for not getting better, this post is for you. You are not alone in doubting the effectiveness of psychotherapy in making an impact on mental illness, but try to remain open to new interventions as you throw away what has proven itself useless.
Ryan Wetter is a writer and creative services professional with mental illness. If you have a question for him, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.