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My therapist essentially told me to mind my own business when she said to waive responsibility for others’ emotions — whether that was good advice is debatable.

It does have merits. In her defense, when we work together, our main priority is my mental health, and I struggle with maintaining emotional boundaries. However, I can’t help but bring my political ideology of radical love into consideration. Equality is not equity. How I approach one friendship may not be helpful for another. I know my therapist is trying to ease my mental distress, but she can’t always possibly know what advice fits my philosophy or is an appropriate approach for my issues.

There are two points I want to make. Firstly, the titular point: your therapist isn’t going to be correct all the time. 

Your therapist can only know as much as you share with them. They’ll only know your side of the story. They’re biased. Not only because you are their sole access point into your life, but because they have their own life with an entire history of varying experiences. Your therapist may have a perspective that may not suit you. They are mental health professionals, but that does not automatically make them good at their job. They are not experts on you.

While I ended up taking my therapist’s advice, I took it with a grain of salt and not as a strict rule for all situations. Ultimately, it’s up to you to filter through the advice to determine what will work best for your situation.

Secondly, finding the right therapist will be a process.

I went into therapy thinking it would be Freudian psychoanalysis. I kind of hoped the therapist would sit me down to unpack my childhood traumas. I did not expect the therapist to engage in thought-provoking questions about what I want from life.

Humanistic therapy

I received humanistic therapy. In this approach, my therapist unconditionally accepted me to create a safe space to explore personal growth and change. According to a 2013 review, this client-centered therapy is helpful for: 

  • depression
  • relationship difficulties
  • trauma
  • psychosis
  • coping with chronic health issues

In this method, it is important to feel comfortable with your therapist. Some things to consider are their race, gender, sexuality or any other characteristic that will help you feel understood. Their background and experiences may inform their advice. While my therapist didn’t check many of my initial boxes, I overall did agree with the approach of  my sessions (maybe because I led them).

The strategies your therapist will recommend will be based on the type of therapy they chose to study. Your level of interest determines its efficacy as well. Why would you do something if you weren’t interested or didn’t think it would work? Take a gander and see which approaches appeal to you.

Psychodynamic therapy

This is the type of therapy I originally described — it is a deep dive into the unconscious mind and your past. It is a long-term interpretive and speculative approach. Through corrective emotional experiences and gained insights, the goal is to shift from “immature” defense mechanisms to more healthy coping mechanisms. By aiming to get to the root of the problem, this method may be a good choice for addressing a variety of conditions such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, somatic symptoms, and substance use.

Behavioral Therapy

This approach aims to discourage and stop unhealthy and self-destructive behaviors. If you subscribe to the idea that behaviors are learned and can therefore be unlearned, this may be the therapy for you! Because it focuses on current behaviors, its action-orientation won’t try to uncover unconscious intentions but instead to recognize triggers or patterns. This approach can treat a variety of mental health disorders.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

This therapy is the 2-for-1 combo deal. It is short-term and is like the previously mentioned therapy, but adds problematic thought processes to the list of unhealthy behaviors to modify. The combination of both cognitive and behavior therapy works together to identify current distorted beliefs to develop more constructive responses to stressors.

Group Therapy

Consider the possibility that your need for a therapist is beyond yourself.

The whole is greater than the sum of its part in a Family Systems approach. With a therapist, your family can uncover dysfunctional patterns of interaction rather than focus on the characteristics of a single person. The overall goal is to increase the functioning of the family.

Maybe you’re having issues with your romantic partner. Just like individual therapy, couples (often marital) therapy comes in many forms:

Therapy is something everyone should look into. While not everyone has a mental illness, everyone does have to address their mental health. Therapists come in all shapes and forms; finding the right one for you can be a lengthy process. It’s important to note that even when you do find the therapist that is a perfect match for you, recognize that they are still simply another person to provide advice and be empathetic.

Major thank you to my therapist, should she ever come across this, for opening the door for doubt and giving me the tools to care for my mental health.

Here’s to us all pursuing healing in 2022!

Sources and further reading:

Shapiro, J.P.  (2015). Child and Adolescent Therapy: Science and Art, Second Edition.  John Wiley & Sons.  ISBN: 978-1-118-72211-4. 

UC Irvine, Child Therapies, Kara Thorsen, Ph.D.

UC Irvine, Social Relationships, Joanne Zinger, Ph.D.

https://www.healthline.com/health/types-of-therapy

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/psychotherapy

https://www.verywellmind.com/couples-therapy-definition-types-techniques-and-efficacy-5191137

You are what you love. In my case, it's riot grrrl music, healing reads, and bell hooks quotes. I am a national HC writer and a chapter editor at UC Irvine, where I study political science and social ecology.
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