This Black Man’s Take On Why Therapy Is So Important
All of us that do it, do it for a different reason.
I’m sure that those who don’t do it, have their reasons too.
In my opinion however, it’s something that all of us should at least try.
The it I speak about, is therapy.
Growing up, as is the case in many black households, therapy was always something we poked fun at. The idea of bearing our souls to a stranger, a ‘quack’ at that, with the expectation that our problems would be magically resolved, was both unrealistic and comical; comical in part because it was so extraordinarily unrealistic. And especially as boys, growing into men, the notion that we may need the assistance of others to sort through our own issues was not just frowned upon, but an impossibility. We were taught, consciously or through behavior we observed, that our problems could be managed through self medication or, more commonly, we were instructed to ‘take it to God.’ Within my community, church was often the most sought out remedy for our dilemmas. I still find this to be the case today. But as I grew older and my relationships and life experiences were more layered, complex and nuanced, I found that while religion and God continued to play an important role in my life, I needed something else, an outlet of sorts; a mechanism to help me make sense of the things I couldn’t on my own.
I’ve always been the friend that others come to for advice. I gladly offer my advice in these circumstances and more times than not, my advice is pretty accurate (if I may say so myself) and seems to help out with their situations. But for some really odd reason, I can’t seem to either offer myself good advice or take the good advice that I offer others. I’ve come to realize that if a person has just one other individual they can rely on and whom they can call a true friend, they should consider themselves rich with blessings. I am blessed to have many friends and people in my corner. But at the point I realized that I was continuously having feelings of being unheard, alone and isolated, even amongst a group of loved ones, I knew I had to seek professional help; a neutral listening ear. And let me be clear, I’m not saying that the people in my life were intentionally neglectful or that they did not try in the ways they knew how. I believe they did. But life happens to all of us and I’m sure there are times that my friends cannot be present or supportive in a way that I may need, in the same way that my own issues or lack of knowledge and tools may keep me from being present for them in the ways they need. After just one session with my new therapist, I felt like a different man! Seriously. She was an unbiased third party to all my issues and she listened to me. She confirmed my anger when valid. She poked holes in my rationalization when facts proved I was actually the one at fault. She held me accountable. And I suppose that because she was neutral and a professional, her words were easier to digest; I knew there were no hidden agendas or “yes-man” support of me because she was a loved one.
Let me not paint this picture with all broad strokes; there is an intricate web that holds it all together. Going to therapy is not the solution to the problem, but it is one piece of the puzzle. Another piece of the puzzle is doing the work. It’s not enough to show up in your therapist’s office every week or month, spew your issues and return back to your daily routine, having changed little about yourself or the way in which you respond to situations. You must actively use the tools therapy provides you with to improve upon yourself. Additionally, it is imperative that you surround yourself with those committed to your success; those that encourage and uplift you. To be in the company of those who don’t, will be toxic to your progression. And, if you happen to find yourself on the other side of that fence, talking down therapy or taunting those in your life who choose to pursue that option, know that you are likely part of their problems. Your personal beliefs about therapy should not be imposed upon someone who might find that therapy greatly improves the quality of their life. Your role is to encourage and support. Maybe even offer to attend a session with them; most professionals allow this and many do so free of any extra charges.
I wish I could pinpoint the one thing or issue in my life that keeps me in therapy but that’s the thing, there’s never just one issue, right? There’s work, school, my wife, my kids, my family, my wife’s family, friendships, the pressure of being the bread-winner, bills, being a young black man in America, my doubts, etc. The mountain is large and ever evolving and the more I let things pile onto my shoulders without talking to a professional, the more harm I do to my well-being. So now, even when things are going great, therapy serves as a type of life maintenance.
I encourage all of you reading this, to share it with someone you love that may need support. I challenge each of you reading this to evaluate if you are the one who is in need of this help. Please, take the time to invest in your mental health, today. I’ve gone from a non-believer to an advocate. It’s almost funny how often I ask of my friends, “have you talked to a therapist about this yet?” And I don’t do it because I don’t want to offer advice (remember, I’m the advice guy). Rather, I do so because I know how much value is to be gleaned from a professional helping answer the tough questions. I’ve experienced it firsthand and I just want others to know this help is effective.
Ultimately, having the talk about the possibilities of seeing a therapist is setting you, your friend, or your family member up for success! So give the couch a try. You’ve got nothing to lose, but everything to gain!
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