This Is What Therapy REALLY Is, Because It’s Not Just Sitting On A Couch And Talking About Your Feelings

woman with red lips sitting in chair
God & Man

When we typically think about therapy, we think of a middle-aged man in a tweed jacket, sitting with a clipboard and half-moon glasses perched on the bridge of his nose while we lay on a couch and talk about our feelings and dreams and what this all means for our mental health and our lives. Afterward, we would leave his office feeling happier and more fulfilled, equipped with tons of answers on how to deal with the difficult situation or mental illness that has brought us into therapy in the first place.

But that’s not really how it is.

Because the truth about therapy is that it’s hard fucking work.

You just don’t walk into a therapist’s office, immediately bond with them, unload your past, and magically feel as though it no longer affects your present after a 45-minute session.

I wish that were the case, but no. That’s just not realistic.

Because therapy is more than just talking about painful pasts, toxic relationships, self-destructive behaviors, and harmful thinking patterns. It’s more than just venting and crying and getting it all out there. It’s diving deep into those painful pasts, toxic relationships, self-destructive behaviors, and harmful thinking patterns and figuring out what the hell to do about it. 

Talking about your problems doesn’t make them go away. Having someone listen doesn’t make them go away either. Talking with a trained medical professional about strategies and solutions and plans to deal with the difficult situations that have hijacked your life can, however.

And, of course, venting is helpful. This is not to say to bottle it all up, not at all. That wouldn’t be healthy to keep it all inside.

But once you’re done feeling, you need to start healing.

And that’s where therapy comes in, with actionable goals and strategies that will get you happier, healthier, and more at peace. And after that, it’s the really rough part: implementing those strategies and solutions into your life, without your therapist present.

Because the thing we fail to realize about therapy is that a lot of the healing and progress happens outside of the therapist’s office.

It’s remembering how to listen to and regulate your breathing when you feel yourself growing anxious to help curb the effects of anxiety. It’s recognizing a toxic person and having a plan in place that will help you walk away safely. It’s strategizing ways to overcome the incredibly overwhelming feelings that come with depression. It’s rewiring your thinking to keep you from returning to the negative thinking that is also negatively impacting your life.

So, yes, therapy does involve talking. It does involve your feelings, and sometimes lots of them. But mostly it’s about changing. Changing your thinking, behaviors, mindsets, and relationships, ultimately changing your life. TC mark

Molly Burford

Writer. Editor. Hufflepuff. Dog person.

Trace the scars life has left you. It will remind you that at one point, you fought for something. You believed.

“You are the only person who gets to decide if you are happy or not—do not put your happiness into the hands of other people. Do not make it contingent on their acceptance of you or their feelings for you. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if someone dislikes you or if someone doesn’t want to be with you. All that matters is that you are happy with the person you are becoming. All that matters is that you like yourself, that you are proud of what you are putting out into the world. You are in charge of your joy, of your worth. You get to be your own validation. Please don’t ever forget that.” — Bianca Sparacino

Excerpted from The Strength In Our Scars by Bianca Sparacino.

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