So you’re thinking about going to a therapist. And then, if we’re being honest, you’re also thinking of not going to a therapist. Because not only is seeing someone whose main goal is to help you with your mental health a challenging proposition — What if you discover things you don’t like about yourself? Worse, what if you have to change them? — but there’s a certain stigma that goes along with considering therapy, let alone actually calling someone up, sitting down in their office, and then trying to dig through the years and years of “stuff” you’ve accumulated throughout your life.
Before I was a writer, I was working towards my own licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist (I had the degrees, I worked in a crisis clinic, and I was pretty close to finishing my one-on-one client hours) and I can tell you that a therapeutic relationship is very strange (at least at the beginning) from both sides of the couch. “No other profession,” a woman I went to grad school with said once, “is predicated upon going into a room with a total stranger, locking the door, and unloading all your secrets.” It’s something that’s stayed with me for years, and it’s also something that may be keeping you or someone you know out of therapy.
But actually, therapy’s not so bad. In fact, for many people, it’s a vital form of self care that outranks retail therapy, warm baths, and those open letters on Medium people like writing so much. It’s a way to talk through your own issues, to yourself, with another person facilitating. And in the long run, it can make you feel peaceful, content, and maybe, if you work really hard, even happy.
In order to answer all the questions you may have about seeing a mental health professional, what it’s like to actually sit in the chair, and what you can and can’t expect from your 50 minutes a week, I talked to Danni Biondini, a therapist and college instructor in San Francisco. There are lots of rewarding things about being a therapist, Biondini says, but none more than the time one of her teen clients — she provides therapy to high school students — told her she was the only person on campus who “wasn’t a police.”
That sounds funny on the surface, but as Biondini points out, it’s also an important message; after all, how many of us have even one person in our lives — including ourselves — whose sole job is not policing our thoughts and actions? In order to demystify the mental health field further, Biondini shared some advice she wishes she could tell everyone who enters her waiting room.