John's Blog

The Blog of John Gibson, PhD

How Therapy Works

In an age where everybody communicates by text messages, social networks, e-mail and cell phones, the idea of meeting face-to-face with an actual person sounds almost quaint. And yet that's precisely what therapy is all about. It's about taking an hour every week or so to engage in honest communication about those aspects of your life that are most vital to your well-being.

The aim of therapy is to help you work your way through distress. Of course, distress can take many forms. Maybe you’re struggling with a set of symptoms, like those associated with anxiety or depression, or maybe you're trying to get a handle on a key relationship. Or maybe life has sent you a curve ball––a divorce, a job loss, or an illness––and your head is spinning.

If human beings functioned strictly according to logic and reason, we’d seldom run at cross purposes with ourselves. But human beings are emotional beings. We feel pain, compassion, joy, anger, sadness, fear, shame, and guilt–-and these feelings are rarely more powerfully felt than when they occur in the context of attachments with other people.

Therapy helps you deepen your understanding of yourself and those around you. As we begin to examine the particular nature of your distress, we’ll discover patterns. These patterns may involve contradictory feelings, hidden motivations, or maladaptive beliefs that bias your perception of the world. The good news is, once these patterns are identified, they are changeable, especially if you are open to new possibilities.

It takes courage to seek therapy. Many people avoid it because they are afraid that being in therapy (read as: asking for help) makes them weak. But does it really make you a weak if you are willing face those aspects of your life that are not working? Or does it make you courageous?

Or maybe even smart.

Suppose I put it like this: If you were faced with the task of crossing a mountain range that you were unfamiliar with, would you rather go it alone or hire a guide?

A psychologist is a guide. He knows the territory of the human psyche. If you're trying to overcome an emotional issue, yes, you can go it alone. But a guide will help you reach your destination more quickly, especially if you’re prone to run in circles.

Give therapy a try. You might be surprised by how much it helps.