When is therapy needed, when is it over?


I have come to believe that by and large the human family all has the same secrets, which are both very telling and very important to tell. They are telling in the sense that they tell what is perhaps the central paradox of our condition—that what we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet that is often just what we also fear more than anything else.

Frederick Buechner, American author and theologian

 This article provoked a great deal of discussion among my friends who are shrinks. Most applauded the article. One who does long-term therapy thought it one-sided.

In Therapy Forever? Enough Already –

Once I had no faith in shrinking unless you were  trying to resize clothes.  Moreover, I was most critical of long-term therapy and thought my friends who spent their lives on one or another shrink’s couch were wasting their money.  Needless to say they didn’t agree with me.

You also need to know or be reminded of the fact that I spent a little over three years on the couch saying what every came into my mind.  As I often joked with my students, I sometimes thought all that I gained form the three years was the ability to use the F word.  Let me explain.

When I was eight or nine, I came across the F word in the girl’s room at school.  It was scrawled angrily all over the wall one day and gone the next, only to keep re-appearing.  Curious, I asked my mother what “F—k” meant. Her response was to haul me to sink and pour Old Dutch Cleanser into my mouth.  Now when you are in analysis the rule is you must say whatever comes into your mind. After several months one word kept coming to mind with great regularity, but I couldn’t say it. My shrink started saying it.  The sky didn’t open, Old Dutch Cleanser didn’t rain down on him. Nor on me when I finally moved past my mother’s reaction.

Actually, I got a great deal more from my analysis.  There is something healing in telling all to a person who devotes undivided attention to what you are saying,  doesn’t say much, but conveys acceptance.  So I do understand that some want this to go on and if can afford it, who am I to complain.  But I also think one size does not fit all.  Moreover, I don’t think many can afford the time or the money, so my bias is toward shorter term more goal oriented approaches.  Moreover, not everyone needs therapy.

STAYING STRONG TIPS  When do you need therapy?  Absolutely,  if you have not just occasional thoughts of killing someone–yourself or another, but serious plans  to do so. Also a must if you spend every day sad or mad or drinking and drugging.  And if at least three other people say you are anorexic. And if you seem to be accident prone.  And finally, if you can’t do what you need to do most every day. What you need to do is get up, get going, get to school or work, take decent physical care of yourself.

But this post is about when therapy but deciding when enough is enough.  Studies show that most therapies last as long as the therapists think it should last, so that is always a good question to ask when interviewing therapists. And yes, you should interview potential therapists.

I think there are two signs therapy is over.  One is if you have gone in with a specific goal and the goal has been met.  That said, I went into my analysis because I wanted to get married and ended it in the three years my shrink thought would be needed without a mate in sight. However, I no longer cared so much about getting married. Sometimes when a goal is not met, the wrong goal was set.

The second sign came from the mouth of my shrink.  “When you know what I would say to you, you don’t need to keep coming.”

Now all the above is a fixed in concrete, just some off the top of my head ideas, but I think fairly sound ones.  Do remember, however, this is a blog.  Take what makes sense, leave what doesn’t.

PRACTICING  KINDNESS ALSO KEEP YOU STRONG. Help me grow my blogBe kind to me and others by sharing my  12 Daily Emotional Fitness Exercises. .


Agree or disagree, comments are always welcomed.

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