I was visiting a friend the other day and telling her of my recent misadventures in therapy. She suggested that I should have a new reality show called "Merely Me goes to Therapy" and every week I can showcase the bloopers and blunders of the helping profession. Now don't go stealing my idea! You can tell by my tone that this is going to be a slightly sardonic post. It is true that I have become a bit jaded about therapy recently. Know that I do believe in therapy. When therapy is good it can literally save your life from despair. But when it is bad I believe it can cause more harm than good.
I have personally experienced both sides of the coin.
When I was in my twenties I had the fortunate experience of finding one of the most skilled and effective therapists I have ever been to. The thing was is that I found him through sheer luck. I was going through a very bad depression which had me crying at work. My best friend and co-worker at the time led me back into his office and made a call for me to set up an appointment with a psychologist. I spent zero time searching. My friend did all the work and it only took minutes to get me hooked up with someone. The therapy I would end up receiving was life changing.
I believe that therapy can be compared to dancing. When you see dance partners who are connected then the dance appears seamless and easy. But when you see two people dancing who have no connection you pay more attention to counting steps or technique. You are made aware of how difficult dance can be if you have a bad partner. It is no longer fun and is more of a chore to keep your toes from being stepped on.
It is my opinion that so much of therapy is based upon the connection you have with your therapist. I don't care what kind of method they are using, if you aren't jiving with your therapist on a basic human level then the therapy is not going to be effective.
The traits which my first therapist had which I am finding to be rare included: Having ethical standards and appropriate boundaries, allowing me to lead but never letting me wander too far from the topic at hand, able to validate my thoughts and feelings, showing a gentleness when the subject matter could cause great anxiety or distress, but also knowing when to challenge me to take the next steps and move forward with my goals.
This therapist helped me through the worst of my depressive episodes when I felt I could cope no longer. When I finally left his care I felt as though I had truly accomplished something. I was given the tools to not only survive but to find some happiness. For this I will always be grateful.
I have given you an example of how therapy can be good for you. But when is therapy "bad" and even harmful? I am always giving the suggestion here to try therapy. And I do believe that it is a good idea to try. But also know that there are therapists out there who may not be helpful to you and it is helpful to be discerning about who you choose to be your therapist. You will be spending a lot of time with this person. You will tell them very intimate things. You may be spending a lot of money out of pocket or through your insurance. You deserve to find the best therapist for you, someone who can truly help you to reach your goals.