Everyone Needs Therapy (Just About)
Written By: Mark Smith
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I'm serious. I believe that just about everybody in this world could not only benefit a great deal from some quality time on a therapist's couch, but that they really do need to go there. Most of you know of our local owner of a gun store whose clever and really famous line was "I don't want to make any money; I just LOVE to sell guns." I'm not writing this article to try to sell you something that you don't need just so I can make some money; I would find that pointless and unfulfilling. The whole purpose of "The Networker" is my attempt to rigorously challenge and to begin to shift the paradigms of as many people as possible toward openness to the tremendous value of effective therapy. I have been told many times by marketing experts, advertising people and other well-meaning therapists that our articles would "sell" better if they were nice tame non-controversial little articles that offered useful little tips about child rearing, improving one's love life or how to be more successful. I'll tell you what I have told them for years-I don't really care what sells. I just want to share what I believe are life-impacting truths about emotions, relationships, families, addictions, marriages, etc. because I believe they are going to be immensely helpful concepts to anyone who reads them with a truly open heart. That is what Family Tree is about. A huge new profession has been developing in this country in recent years called "Life Coaching." Therapists have been leaping off the therapy train and hopping onto the coaching bandwagon by the thousands. They make a seemingly logical argument for making the switch-offering personal growth, increased potential and a greater level of success to the "healthy" sells much better than trying to pitch a worldview that basically says "you are dysfunctional, your problems are rooted all the way back in your childhood, therapy will take a long, long time, and the process will sort of feel like puking up emotional vomit." Therapists are also motivated to ditch the hassles of managed care, charge a much higher fee for coaching and get to mainly use the phone to enlighten their clients instead of being stuck in their therapist chairs all day every day. The problem with the coaching paradigm, in my opinion, is that it isn't based on the reality of what people are really like. The vast majority of people aren't healthy. They are, in fact, dysfunctional, and yes, that very probably does include YOU, my dear reader.
I have been privileged enough to conduct intensive studies of many hundreds of people throughout my career as a therapist. We fill out a very exhaustive "geno-gram" or family tree (hence the name) for every client who comes to our office. We base much of our worldview on an Old Testament scripture which reads "The sins of the fathers will be visited upon the children and upon the children's children to the third and fourth generation" - Numbers 14:18. I have never conducted a family background study without uncovering massive amounts of dysfunction that has spilled over from generation to generation-divorces, addictions, distant fathers, raging mothers, shaming parents, sexual abuse, parental abandonment, physical abuse, parents who just weren't emotionally close to their kids, financial problems, etc. You might say, sure, that is because you only work with those few pitiful people who have major mental health issues. No. What I'm saying is that to have a good bit of dysfunction in one's family tree is completely normal and it is extremely common. I frequently illustrate this concept by saying that on an emotional health scale of 1 to 10 there are no "9's" or "10's," there are hardly any "8's" in the world and if we were to accurately come to a national average it would be about "3" on that scale of 10. I believe that the great majority of people spend their lives trying desperately to look and act like "8's" when they are actually "3's." Even though the old man was a raging alcoholic . . . if I have a beautiful house, a fine education, a great car and a pretty little passive and supportive wife, then I have pulled myself up by my bootstraps and overcome my childhood wounds with hard work and superior intelligence-or so the myth goes. Eventually the pretty little passive/supportive wife becomes angry and bitter. The marriage lacked depth, intimacy and equality because both parties were hiding behind psychological walls in nature's attempt to shield us from the hurtful aspects of our childhoods. When she takes up with some guy named Sergio and hires Johnnie Cochran, the fellow who is a "3" but thinks he is an "8" basically blames it all on wife #1 and he begins to scour the secretarial pool for an adoring, younger, prettier, passive and supportive wife #2. Then seven years later he is in the same boat, but this time he had her sign a prenuptial agreement so Johnnie Cochran doesn't take all his money again.
It is normal to have issues. You are probably a lot closer to a "3" then you are to being an "8." What are the issues in your family history? What pain, trouble, problems, addictions, sins, misfortune and imperfections have passed from generation to generation in your family system? Think about it. Do you know your family's history? Do you know who you are and where you have come from?
With Oprah and Dr. Phil constantly pounding the airwaves with therapy, our culture is becoming much more open to the notion that therapy might actually be useful and helpful to many if not most people. Dr. Phil stands up like a real man and confidently and courageously names issues with authority that people are too close to effectively name for themselves. That is what we try to do at Family Tree; we thoroughly research you (and your spouse) and then comes the sensitive but extremely cutting psychological surgery we call the feedback session. A man's man can avoid all that "Oprah chick crap" pretty easily by being at work at 4:00 pm, but then when he settles in to watch his manly The Sopranos show on Sunday night what does he find but even Tony Soprano darkening the door of the therapist's office on a weekly basis, for goodness sakes. Therapy is an incredibly booming business because almost everyone needs our services eventually and by the time they reach us they are generally pretty motivated to get to work by their pain. I want to talk some about some of the benefits of therapy, but before I do that I want to ask you some questions. How happy are you? How happily married are you? How connected are you to your kids? How well disciplined and well adjusted are your kids? How self-actualized are you in your job? How good of a job do you do in taking care of yourself? Where are you at spiritually? What are your addictive behaviors? What emotional wounds did you sustain during your childhood? What do you want to change about yourself? Effective therapy can help you significantly with all these areas of your life.
Just off the top of my head I can think of 35 ways that therapy can benefit people. If I had more room I think that I could probably come up with over 100. These aren't in any particular order of importance. In therapy one can . . .
(1) build self-esteem,
(2) gain a much greater understanding of oneself,
(3) learn to become much more gracious and forgiving of one's own faults,
(4) become a better parent,
(5) learn how to not view life from a victim's perspective,
(6) develop assertiveness skills,
(7) learn to handle stress better,
(8) learn to resolve conflict directly and non-reactively,
(9) learn how to receive nurturing,
(10) heal trust issues,
(11) become less harsh and judgmental,
(12) learn to become more accountable,
(13) learn how to listen better,
(14) make peace with your parents,
(15) get guidance,
(16) learn how to set effective boundaries,
(17) gain emotional support while going through a divorce,
(18) grieve the death of a parent or a spouse,
(19) overcome addictive behavior,
(20) increase emotional intimacy in your relationship,
(21) gain the strength to leave an abusive relationship,
(22) gain greater sensitivity to the needs of other people,
(23) learn to forgive a spouse who had an affair,
(24) learn how to proactively attack life's problems,
(25) learn how to become less controlling,
(26) learn how to be much less defensive when confronted,
(27) learn to develop a more equal and interdependent "team" quality in your marriage,
(28) grow spiritually,
(29) develop so much emotional intimacy in your marriage that your sex life becomes fantastic,
(30) become more focused on your personal and career goals,
(31) explore possible career changes,
(32) decrease anxiety and stress that affect and attack your body so you are physically healthier,
(33) gain an objective relational referee who almost always makes the right call in naming marital issues,
(34) gain a much more positive perspective about people, and
(35) learn to resolve issues that cause rage rather than just trying to control rage.
As my dad would say, "that's not too shabby." Do you have anything that you might need to work on? Does your spouse think that you might have a few things to work on? If you are a normal person, then there is plenty to work on. If you don't come to therapy and do some work, then you really are missing out on something wonderful.
We would love to work with you in marriage counseling here in Indianapolis or anywhere in the English speaking world via Skype!
We can help you. Our approach is sound. I have trained each one of the therapists well. We care deeply from our hearts. We have spent plenty of time working on our own issues in therapy. We have a lovely office by a little pond. And to top it all off, we give you free candy and cappuccinos when you come in. And remember, we don't want to make any money; we just LOVE to do therapy!
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