True life: I love therapy

I’m embarrassed by plenty of things: tripping over my own feet, singing lyrics incorrectly, choosing to wear a horrid sparkly neon sweater over my school uniform throughout sixth grade, and other quirky actions or mistakes whose memories make me blush. But one thing I’m not the least bit embarrassed, ashamed or regretful about is my history of seeing a therapist.

Therapy isn’t just for fictional characters with outrageous, unrealistic problems or for people whom society has decided to write off as “crazy.” Therapists don’t solely specialize in helping middle-age couples concerned about their failing marriages or troubled teen outcasts rebelling against their parents. Sitting on a comfortable couch in a room with soothing scents does not have to mean that you’ve resorted to desperate measures to confront something tragically upsetting in your life or inherently wrong with your personality; it’s a healthy step in combatting personal problems — no matter how dramatic or mundane.

Essentially, therapy is for anyone. That absolutely includes college students, who typically juggle school, part-time jobs or internships and extracurricular commitments, all on top of one essential, yet sometimes neglected, thing called a personal life.

My first experience with therapy came in 2007, when I was a college sophomore. I felt rejected by a few of my former friends, I had dificulty falling alseep and I was surprisingly stressed and anxious about daily tasks that had barely worried me before. My mom recommended that I see a therapist, and although I was a bit pessimistic that it would “work” for me, I decided to give it a try. I was more than 600 miles from home and didn’t feel comfortable confiding in my new friends, whom I was still trying to charm and win over.

After just the second session, I felt extremely comfortable with my therapist, who maintained a mix of optimism and concern that was perfect me. And after about five sessions, I looked forward to my weekly visit. Then, after about the eighth session, I realized that therapy wasn’t “working” for me; I was working because of it.

Therapy isn’t a magical solution; it doesn’t “cure” a person’s attitude, feelings or external influences in the way that Tylenol cures a headache. No matter how much I told my therapist about my life and personality — and believe me, I’m a fast, detailed talker, so I told her a lot — I still knew myself and what’s best for me better than she did. So, she didn’t work to make my life better, forcing me to make radical changes or alter my attitude, based on her ironclad assessments. Rather, she made interesting observations about my thinking patterns and asked surprising questions about my adamant assumptions, which helped me decide how I could work to help myself. I realized many new things about myself, including habits, values and fears. Then, I felt not only able to, but enthusiastic about, creating a plan to better myself — not to satisfy anyone else’s expectations but to meet my own.
And the plan I worked out wasn’t something that could be completed in a day, a week or even a year; it’s something I continually have to work on. Just as a proper diet is one that lasts a lifetime and represents a whole new way of thinking about food, therapy helped me create a whole new way of thinking about my life. So, since graduating and moving on to graduate school at NSU, I’ve seen a therapist again. But I absolutely don’t believe revisiting therapy means that the first experience was a failure. No matter how hard I work, I’ll still always experience problems and the stress they bring. I am human, after all.

Perhaps one of the most reassuring things about therapy is that it’s confidential; therapists won’t discuss your visits with anyone else, nor will they reveal that you’ve even spoken to them. So you don’t have to wear a neon shirt with bold letters that declare, “I’m seeing a therapist,” write an opinion’s piece about it in the newspaper or have a frank discussion about it with your family. If disclosing it makes you uncomfortable in any way, you’re free to hold it close as your secret.

Just remember, keeping your therapy sessions secret doesn’t indicate that you should be ashamed; you simply may not be as confident as I am to discuss your experience with others. Whether you tell only your diary or you write a public blog entry about it, you’ve made the right decision. There’s no right or wrong way to experience therapy; treating yourself with love and care will always be right — never crazy. Besides, “crazy” is a nasty, judgmental word that the world would do better without, but that’s a matter for another opinion’s piece.

Clearly, NSU’s administration understands the value of therapy, as all students are eligible for 10 free sessions per year with Henderson Student Counseling. Don’t treat this offering as superfluous school trivia, the sort you might file away in your brain alongside the number of books in the library or the name of the first president. Counseling doesn’t exist for someone else, someone you couldn’t possibly be, someone who’s clearly deranged and needs serious help.

If you’ve ever experienced stress or anger or pain, or you simply feel like complaining to a new face different from your friends, counseling is for you. Just as seeing a doctor, taking medicine and getting extra sleep is helpful for curing the common cold, therapy is just one step in dealing with common college stressors. So, give Henderson a call at 954-424-6911 or 954-262-7050. You truly have nothing to lose — not even money and certainly not your sanity.

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