Joining a gym. CHECK. Eating healthier. CHECK. Quitting smoking. CHECK. Taking a daily multivitamin. CHECK. We easily, even casually, commit to self-care habits like these time and time again, knowing that the most effective path to good health is a proactive, preventive approach to wellness. We will follow our doctor’s orders to take cholesterol-lowering medications, or our personal trainer’s suggestion to try out novel, challenging exercises. But rarely do I encounter folks who consider counseling as an essential part of their overall healthcare regimen.
Re-Thinking the Purpose of Therapy
Why is that? Therapy may still carry a stigma, the message that we are “crazy” or “sick” if we see a counselor. People may consider that mental or emotional pain is “just a part of life” and something we can’t avoid or influence. I’ve heard clients name the expense, the time that would be taken out of their busy schedules, and the belief that therapy isn’t “necessary” as some reasons why they don’t pursue counseling. Most people seem to seek out help after a life crisis, a traumatic event, or a debilitating experience of anxiety or depression hampers their functioning. But most of us don’t wait for a heart attack to spur us onto a treadmill. We’ve internalized the knowledge that exercise, healthy foods and preventive physical care can enhance our well-being and even lengthen our lives. While emotional suffering may not be as visible as a broken leg or off-the-charts blood glucose levels, we know in a visceral way that psychic pain is as torturous and debilitating as its physical counterpart. Counseling can teach healthy coping skills, mind-body awareness, and help develop insights that allow us to make more positive, productive and authentic decisions in our lives. Therapy has been proven to enhance an individual’s emotional resilience, allowing them to bounce back faster after a crisis, and with less lingering negative effects. The empathy people experience through the counseling relationship can provide a sense of connection and self-value that empowers people to feel better able to influence their world. The insights people discover through the therapy process can move us to deeper, more satisfying self-awareness, more meaningful relationships and more fulfilling lives.
Therapy as Part of Holistic Health Care
We don’t need to frequent our counselor’s office three times a week or toss back a little therapy everyday with our vitamins. But if we recognize the power counseling has to help us lead healthier, happier, possibly even longer lives, we might consider adding this intervention to our wellness regimen even if we are not currently in crisis. We prize our physical bodies enough to put in the time and effort to keep them working well. Don’t our emotional and spiritual selves deserve the same commitment?