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Poll: Therapy

And when I talk about therapy, I know what people think
That it only makes you selfish and in love with your shrink
But Oh how I loved everybody else
When I finally got to talk so much about myself
Dar Williams, “What Do You Hear in These Sounds”

I love Dar Williams’ lyrics here as she jokes about the stigma many in our society place on people who participate in talk therapy with a psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker–like these people who are seeking help for emotional difficulties are indulgent or narcisstic or just plain crazy.

Talk therapy has given me valuable tools in my life for dealing with my own depression and dealing with friends and family using compassion and boundaries, so I’m a big fan.*  I’d go more often if I could afford it.  Every couple of years, my husband and I find we’re in need of another marital tune-up or I’m finding that I’m having a hard time managing my depression on my own, so I’ll go for a few months.

While I’ve never had a Mormon therapist, I’ve always sought out people with strong spiritual beliefs.  I’ve had some duds that didn’t last more than a session or two, but when I find a good one, I stick with them until I move.

Please share in the comments your stories (good and bad) about therapy.

*Of course, I’m a big fan of therapy in much the same way I’m a big fan of exercise.  I’m always happiest right after I’ve finished a session and have a while before the next one.



EmilyCC lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her spouse and three children. She currently serves as a stake Just Serve specialists, and she recently returned to school to become a nurse. She is a former editor of Exponent II and a founding blogger at The Exponent.

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18 Responses

  1. Brian D. says:

    I have found therapy to be very useful and helpful. Someone that’s not connected personally to my life that I can speak with. It’s made me a better person, and has helped me through some of the toughest times in my life. I’m currently seeing a therapist, in the guise of a business coach – http://www.PeterShallard.com. My last therapist work lasted about 9 months, the funny thing was that by the end, he was sharing more with me about his life.

  2. spunky says:

    One of the things I outwardly love about the church is that it has a social services/counselling organization. To me, that is a witness that it is okay to be “not okay” and to seek help to process life’s bumps. I see it as an admonition to recognise and encourage us to seek help outside of family/church/religion, i.e. its existence is in contradiction to the cultural “righteousness, prayer and blessings will automatically make your problems away.”

    I have primarily gone to LDS counsellors. Most of the LDS counsellors have been good to excellent, with one notable major dud. I went to a non-LDS super-dud once who told me it would be better if I just got divorced and started my life over because that would be better than trying to adjust to the remote location where we had just moved (uh…. no thanks. I got a job instead- worked a treat!).

    Recently I have become a HUGE fan of hypno-therapy. I have been twice in the last year (weight loss goals and anxiety after our house was robbed), and noticed an immediate result both times. My hypno-therapist is not LDS, and I have never mentioned the church to her, which I also like.

  3. EM says:

    Going to therapy sessions was the best money I’ve ever spent on myself. First went to an LDS (male) therapist who told me that my husband’s problems was my fault (true story). Needless to say I told him off and never went back. Found a lovely female therapist who was an angel and helped me through my darkest hours. Talking to someone who is objective and non-judgmental is the best medicine.

    • Whitney says:

      EM, that’s terrible about the male therapist. Good for you for telling him off! I’ve seen a few therapists: one good one, one so-so one, and one crappy one. In my experience, and from what I’ve heard from others, it’s all about finding a good therapist. Crappy therapist –> crappy therapy. Great therapist –> helpful, beneficial therapy.

  4. Caroline says:

    Great poll, Emily!

    I haven’t ever seen a therapist, but I’ve wanted to see one for a while now. I imagine that a good therapist could give me some useful tools for dealing with Mormon feminist angst, Mormon woman guilt issues, and questions about how to navigate a Mormon marriage where the partners have different attitudes toward a variety of church things. I’d like to go with my husband, but he’s not interested. Maybe someday…

  5. Miri says:

    I went to a couple therapists as a teenager, and tried once at BYU (an epic failure). I definitely agree with Whitney, it’s one hundred percent dependent on your therapist, and a bad one can really make things worse. I really wish I had money to be in therapy right now.

  6. CatherineWO says:

    I have never been to a therapist myself, but have wanted to, like Caroline, to deal with that pesky Mormon feminist angst and the guilt issues. I really appreciate the good that talk therapy can do. If it weren’t for the BYU counseling (psychology) center, I doubt my son would have ever graduated. He had to try two or three different therapists before he found a good fit, interestly enough with the only therapist there who was not LDS, an amazing man with a very empathetic heart.

  7. Erin says:

    I did all the typical cognitive-behavioral, psychoanalytic, inner child stuff with previous therapists years ago, with some good results. However, recently, I’ve had some new symptoms pop up and none of the above methods really helped, and even the best med cocktail I’ve been on in years only helped about halfway. So, currently, I am undergoing EMDR with a therapist, and am having very good results. It seems to get at underlying blockages and helps me to reprocess memories (not repressed) that are connected to my current struggles.

    Shameless self-promotion and serendipitous moment: I’ve been blogging a bit about my EMDR–what a coincidence!

  8. Jenne says:

    I’ve gone to therapists on and off my whole life. I’ve never had one that I’ve really liked. At one time, I really wished that my therapist was more understanding of my shifting religious identity. Another, I did have an LDS therapist who I appreciated but because of his perspective as a male, he didn’t really get my struggle at the time. Now one of my colleagues and good friend is a therapist and I would go to her happily. Because of our work, she offers me some therapy by phone but in many ways its her friendship and wisdom I value most.

    I do know of a female LDS therapist in my area (who even runs with the Sunstone crowd) and I would happily go to her if I felt the need.

  9. jks says:

    I tried therapy. Once time I went regularly. The other times I simply tried it once to see if the therapist might be helpful. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.
    Except for one line one therapist said once. 5 seconds of help. A whole lot of wasted time.
    My sister did great in therapy. I believe it could be great, but I somehow don’t seem to be able to get someone who can address my needs. I just don’t think talking about my colorful family endlessly is going to help me with anxiety while driving, for instance. I’ve got friends and family that I can talk to when I need to talk things out.

  10. Maureen says:

    I notice a distinct lack in the poll option for therapy having been hurtful or utterly unhelpful. That’s the flip side to the stigma. There are those who stigmatize those who go to therapy and then there are those who stigmatize those who don’t. Abuse in therapy is played down or swept under the rug, because “what if those who need therapy don’t get it because of that?” Those who choose not to get therapy because it has never been helpful to them get treated as if their problems are their fault now because they aren’t seeking professional help. Comparatively my experience hasn’t been so bad. I have got some tools (though they only help in a really minor way) and I’ve never really been abused. But I know there is a subculture and in some cases movement to support out there those who fall into these kinds of situations.

    I started getting therapy when I was 12. I’ve never had the experience that my going to therapy meant I was indulgent or narcissistic. I’ve never (that I’ve known) had anyone question my ability to discern fiction from reality, consider me insane/crazy. (Though I was stupidly put on a anti-psychotic medicine once, surprise it did nothing but have bad side effects.) But because of all that I have been through, “therapy” (especially “you need therapy”) has become code for “there’s something wrong with you.”

    It wasn’t acceptable that I intensely grieved the divorce/death of my family. It wasn’t okay that I felt deeply for my depressed missionary husband to be. It was my fault that I got so stressed out during my engagement. It wasn’t my inlaw’s fault that they were abusing me/us, *I* just needed therapy. It seems that I always needed therapy before just because others couldn’t handle me being me.

    But now I really do need therapy because all that has been internalized. I can’t help but feel there is something wrong with me, just for being me. It’s taken a lot of time of solely self work to get to the point where I can reach out again. And you can be assured I did the research to make sure I got a therapist that will not be telling me there is something wrong with me, but help me learn how to overcome the consequences of those who did and help me know how to cope with those who will again such that I don’t end up in the same state.

  11. Danielle says:

    My husband and I met with a counselor from LDS family services. Our therapist was a liberal mormon guy and I was really impressed how he didn’t put a churchy spin on anything. It was great for us to have a therapist who understood the dynamic the church and its expectation brought to our marriage.
    My therapist helped direct my thoughts and channel my energy away from worry toward constructive thoughts and establishing coping mechanisms. My husband only went because the bishop wanted him but for me it was helpful to have a listening ear and then to feel validated in my feelings.

  12. Could just be my ADD, but I’ve never really found counselling to be very helpful. Could also be that I’ve never had a good grasp on what needs to be “fixed”, so it made it kinda hard for any counsellor to drive toward a particular area to work on. Hours spent rambling about things out loud were just as helpful as the hours spent rambling in my head. I also never got the feeling that the counsellor really cared.

    Could just be I’ve not yet found a good one. 😉

  13. LovelyLauren says:

    I have never seen a private therapist, but I’ve used the resources my school’s have provided. In 7th grade I talked about my sister’s cancer treatments with the school psychologist and my senior year of high school I went to see a school counselor a few times as well when my parent’s marriage was doing really poorly. It is really helpful for me to unload on someone who will just listen without interjecting at all and it’s surprisingly hard to get that quality in a friend. I feel bad for dumping on people like that when it’s what I really need.

    I went once last year to the therapy center at my university, but as soon as I stopped taking birth control pills, all of the depression went away. Weird how that works.

    Anyway, I think therapy can be incredibly useful, but personally, I don’t see it as a long-term tool. I see therapy as a tool to get you to a place where you can cope mentally in a healthy way. I just personally know a few people who perhaps put too much stock in therapy and not enough in moving to the point where they don’t need that any more.

  14. Rachel says:

    The first therapist I went to was at BYU and she was a grad student and she was horrible! As an undergrad social work major I knew there had to be better. I asked a professor to hook me up with someone and she was wonderful but in SLC and expensive. Finally I found another through the MSW/MFT program and she was an excellent fit.
    I use the word ‘fit’ because I think sometimes people have to try on a few to find what works for them, speaking as a therapist who hears regularly what has and hasn’t worked for individuals.
    One of the things I love about therapy is when people don’t know I’m LDS, and I don’t know they are, and then they use phrases that so clearly are our language, and I understand them in ways a non-LDS therapist wouldn’t–it doesn’t mean I provide better service necessarily because there are so many factors, but there is a shared understanding of history, pressures, etc. I may or may not reveal my status until asked. There are times I think it is coincidental, and other times, I know it has been an answer to prayer that we connected.

  15. Fran says:

    I put “other”. I’ve tried therapy twice. Both times, I think it was a really poor fit. Well, actually once it was a poor fit, and the other time, I just had a seriously nutty therapist. Those experiences have been a bit discouraging. However, I’d definitely try finding a therapist again next time I feel like I need one. But right now I don’t, and I wouldn’t be able to afford one.

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