What is Therapy?

During my WeWork Workshop last week on “How to Manage Anxiety in the Workplace,” one of the attendees asked a wonderful question. “What exactly is therapy?” He was slightly embarrassed for not knowing the answer and excused his “ignorance” as he called it, but truthfully I thought the question was brilliant and a great reminder for me. I told him just that.

As a licensed psychotherapist, or as in most trained professions, I forget that most people don’t know what I know. Most people didn’t go through the same regiment of additional education and 3,000 hours of grueling training. The definition of psychotherapy isn’t ingrained in their brains just like the definition of certiorari (a legal term) and obdormition (a medical term) are not ingrained in my brain. And so for me, the question was a great reminder that when talking about therapy, I need to start at the beginning rather than somewhere in the middle.

So – what is therapy (aka psychotherapy, talk therapy and counseling)? Therapy can be defined in many ways depending on who you ask. If I had to sum up therapy briefly, I would describe it as self-discovery or the intentional act of setting aside time for yourself every week (50 minutes to be precise) to gain more self-awareness leading to balance, fulfillment and clarity.

People attend therapy for a variety of reasons including (but definitely not limited to) to be heard, to be seen, to be understood, to explore, to problem-solve, to navigate transitions, to grieve and to heal. You can learn to answer questions such as, “Who am I?” “What are my values?” “Is this relationship working for me?” “Why do I say such mean things to myself?” “Why do I feel so alone all the time?” “Where am I going in life? And “What obstacles are standing in my way?” You can dive deep into figuring out where your anxiety or sadness or depression or self-doubt comes from and work to manage it so that you feel in control of your own life. And you can examine your relationships, your career path and your communication styles so that you can exist in a way that feels true to who you actually are.

Historically going to therapy meant you were “crazy” or that something was “seriously wrong with you.” The stigma around therapy was so intense that no one even wanted to say the word. Now more and more I’m finding that that’s not the case. The stigma around therapy is slowly, very slowly decreasing, and now rather than a weakness, therapy can be seen as a strength. At least, that's the way I see it. I see therapy as a way to take time for yourself, a means of self-care, and a path to discovering your strengths and your authentic self, your best self. 

So, what are you waiting for?