Trying Out: Psychology/ Therapy (Week Twenty-Three)
In my view of society, going to see a psychologist, psychiatrist, or just plain getting your head shrunk is met with a raised eyebrow. “How screwed up are you that you need to talk to someone? Don’t you have friends for that? Can’t you handle your own problems?”
If you suffer a physical injury, it is expected that you go through several weeks of therapy afterwards. But if you lose a loved one or go through a crisis? I do not feel that the same level of help is allowed by those around us. Why is the inside not given the TLC that the outside demands?
Sometimes that is the initial reaction that I have had. Deal with your own problems. Use the circle of friends. Cowboy-up. And yes, if I was I in a dire emergency, I would call upon my friends and they would rally to the cause. However, nobody’s life is perfect. Everyone can use a sounding board. Hey, if the highly successful writer of Batman comics can come out as being depressed, surely there are more folks in need of help.
My friends, who have more on their plates than I do, have heard most of my venting before. I know someone who works in the field. She offered this test; suggesting that those that score a five or higher should seek help. I did not score all that high, but I thought I would see what there was to see.
All I know of psychologists is second-hand. I only know that psychologists go without prescribing drugs while psychiatrists can. (Medical school is required for the latter.) I know friends that have used it after losing a parent, being abused, or simply because they are in the field and find it helpful.
Then there is the third (Fourth? Fifth?)-hand knowledge. You know, because everything portrayed on the television screen is filled with accuracy and nothing else. I am from the northwest, so I have seen my fair share of Frasier episodes. I had no illusions that my therapist would be cute and fall madly in love with me as in 50/50. In Treatment seemed like it was more or less true to life; at least the setting and the process aspects. I think sitting in a room and tapping your fingers for sixty-minutes would be a fun little power play, but unlike Good Will Hunting, I was the one footing the bill.
How does one find a therapist? I suppose you could ask your friends. Again, there is that social stigma. So why not call upon the great and mighty internet? I was a little skeptical about the discerning powers of a search engine. However I soon came across a site call Psychology Today. There, by entering my area, I was offered a list of psychologists, a photo of them, and a brief statement from them.
I chose the psychologist the way I choose an elected representative. First I found one that served my area. Then, I looked at their picture. (I tend to spill my guts to females, so that part was easy.) Anyone that looked serious or non-wacky moved to the top of my list. (This is truer for the election method than the therapist method. I eliminate half my voting options by crossing out crazy-eyed candidates.) The one I chose was an older lady, seemed kind, and had a statement that focused on hope. I made sure she was not solely devoted to a certain field (no life trauma here, and marriage counseling will not fit me), and sent her a little note.
Within the day, she had responded to me and asked when we could meet up. Within the week, I found myself inside her brick building. It must be nice to only work two days…
The psychologist’s office was in a typical multi-use building. I have passed it several times in the past and never really gave it much thought. I let myself in the main door and took in the lobby. Several minutes later, she walked down the hallway, called my name, and we walked back to her office.
I swear that the layout of the office is its own little brain-test. Where does one sit? Oh sure, if you are in couple’s therapy you should both sit on the couch that is a little inside and to the right. It takes up most of the wall. It is big enough that there is room for both participants and a little room in between. However it was just me. So I could sit in the little chair that was just around the corner, taking up the space between the door and the couch. I could walk to the first chair I saw, a big red leather monstrosity that could hold someone twice my size. Or I could try to make a joke and sit at the wood chair that was parked in the window-facing desk. So many options; it had to be a test.
I’m not neurotic! You’re neurotic!
I took the “decisive” option. I walked straight through the room and sat on the big red chair. I was tempted to recline on the couch, but I am not that clichéd. The room was pleasant, without being great. There were fluorescent lights. A bookshelf held a few tomes. And, perhaps to ensure her down-to-earth nature, the ceiling tile above me had a water-stain. No computer at the desk. No human skulls labelling the different parts of the brain. No tables where they strap you down and hammer nails into the “defective” areas of your skull. So far, clear sailing.
She asked me what I wanted to get out of the session. She offered me the option of having a meet and greet, or trying to have a first appointment. We went more the meet and greet option and I listed off two areas of my life that I would like to change a bit.
If your life is absolutely perfect, congratulations. I find myself without any major crises and am pretty thankful for that. Yet I do have a thing or two that I would like to see go differently. What areas? Heh. No. Sorry.
I like for others to do most of the talking. I study and critique as conversations progress. Happily, she understood that and described her approach, her methods, and how she tended to proceed in situations such as mine. I answered a few questions. Expanded where I thought would be helpful. Over the course of the forty-five minutes, I fed her a little more and a little more.
I can see where people feel this is helpful. There was a point towards the end where I felt things coming to the surface. If I had let them, I could have seen a floodgate or two opening. As we wrapped up, I could tell that I was getting a little emotionally raw. She suggested a book and an activity that I could look in to. (The book seemed like a stretch and nothing something I am in a hurry to add to my mammoth reading-list. The activity was a pretty reasonable idea.)
In the end, I did not feel a need to schedule a weekly visit. From my initial interaction, I felt like she was encouraging me to dig deep inside myself and try to discover things about me. Now, realizing that this may be hubris, I happen to think that I know me pretty dang well. I feel, most days, that I know who I am and what I am capable of. I have been in my head long enough. If I were to continue to see this psychologist, I would want more direction. Less, “What are your thoughts on this” and more, “Do this.” Try to direct me, not coax questions out of me. I know what I want different. I know why I want it different.
If I were to decide that I wanted a sounding board, that psychology therapy was for me, then I think the woman I chose would do just fine. I had no complaints, she was nice enough not to charge for our introductory visit, and I felt she was rather capable. It was nice to get a few things out of my system. In the end though, I would rather spend time out in life, making the changes, then sit down talking about what steps I should make to see changes. More actions, less committee meetings.
If you have not tried it, it does not hurt. I get the impression that it is a good way to transition from where you are to where you want to be next. For myself, I think I will be content with my current state of being. And I have made the initial contact. No Kelsey Grammer call-in shows for me. Should my life go horribly awry in the future, I know who to talk to.