• Jeremy Larsen

“It’s Not That Bad, So I Don’t Need Therapy” — Why Therapy Isn’t Just for People in Crisis

I can’t tell you how many times I have had people I know say something along the lines of “Well I don’t know if it’s bad enough for therapy.” There is still such a stigma associated with going to therapy and getting help that people often think it is only for when things are so bad that there is no other option. This couldn’t be further from the truth. When we work with first responders, competitive athletes, and other performers, we often talk about mental toughness and resilience, and even our field has changed the wording to “mental health, or mind-body wellness,” to try and alleviate some of the stigma. This is because the truth of mental health, is that often times early care can prevent more serious issues later on. I now think of it as professional emotional and psychological coaching, not just as “therapy.”

I am going to use two analogies to explain this, one is a car, and one is a professional athlete.

The Car Analogy – When I buy a new car, it usually has no problems. Sometimes there are accidents, sometimes there are small problems that need to be taken care of, but for the most part the car usually runs smoothly on its own. I still need to take the car in for an oil change every once in a while, I need to do tune ups every once in a while, I need to rotate the tires, and I need to keep it clean. If I do all of these things, the little bits of maintenance, my car will stay working better for longer. I can even go into to a shop and get upgrades for my car to increase performance, or to tune it up for different things. I don’t (or shouldn’t) wait for my car to break down or explode for me to take it in to a mechanic.

The same is true of our physical health, we go to the doctor yearly for a checkup. We (hopefully) eat healthy and exercise to keep our physical machine in tip top shape. But for some reason when it comes to our mental health we often wait for the car to break down to ask for help. There is a stigma, because the symptoms aren’t always visible on the outside, that we should be able to handle it, and “it is just in our head.” Seeing a professional therapist or counselor for regular “tune-ups” and maintenance can and should be part of our plan to take care of our mental machine and keep it working in top condition. The Elite Athlete – Every elite athlete has a coach. No matter how good they are, how capable they are, they need an outsider to look at their performance to help them stay at the top of their game. The better the athlete, the more necessary the coach. I myself lift weights, and am by no means elite, but I still need to occasionally have someone who knows enough check my form and critique my progress, if I want to keep making progress. Tom Brady (bad example if you hate the Patriots), one of the best football players in the game, has a nutritionist, a quarterbacks coach, a strength and conditioning coach, a head coach, a sports psychologist, and any other kind you can think of, to give him every possible advantage he can get to stay at the top of his game. No matter how intelligent, how successful, how put together a person is, no one knows everything, and no one can be 100% objective about themselves. We are all either too hard or too easy on ourselves, and we all like to be the hero of our own story. This is why many of the top professionals, with the healthiest marriages, the best education, and the “perfect” lives go to counseling. Not because something is broken, but because they want to stay at the top. Maintaining a level of conditioning to prevent problems and operate efficiently is the goal of counseling interventions.

For those of us who don’t have a “perfect” life, it can be even more useful to help us get unstuck from negative and self-defeating beliefs about ourselves and others. This is what we mean when we talk about mental toughness. These regular “tune-ups” and “coaching” can help us be less susceptible to life stresses, and can make us far more effective at dealing with the things that do happen. Nothing in life will ever be “perfect” and most of us will experience some form of trauma within our lives. If our machine is in top shape, and we have learned good coping skills, the chance of these events turning into something bigger drop considerably.

If you are having a hard time, or even if you just think there are a few things you need to clear up, give us a call at (760) 942–8663 or email us at info@coherenceassociates.com.

Jeremy Larsen Business Manager Coherence Associates Inc. info@coherenceassociates.com (760) 942–8663

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