There are so many options around these days when it comes to working on improving mental health. Everything from blogs to a million podcasts, to YouTube videos, to any number of a variety of practitioners such as meditation teachers, body-workers, breath-workers, spiritual leaders and so on, all aim to assist in various ways with mental wellbeing. So why would you choose to invest in psychotherapy over these other ways of seeking mental health, clarity, and healing?
As a psychotherapist, I am, of course, biased. However, I am a human being too, and of course have explored a range of healing modalities during my life to understand myself or just to feel better. To me, nothing has been as comprehensive, deep, and even beautiful as psychotherapy. This is because it assists in three primary ways. These things are always a work in progress, but given the appropriate time and attention, they can considerably enhance the quality of one’s life.
Undertaking psychotherapy can first help you master yourself.
This is a state in which you understand what drives you, positively and negatively, how you feel about things, how you understand the world, your triggers, hang-ups, values, purpose, your dreams, and your motivations, your blind-spots and your vulnerabilities. This self-understanding helps to ensure that you have the power to focus on the things you value, and avoid the people, ideas, situations and things that don’t serve you. It helps you to know why you do the things you do, for better or worse, and allows you a greater awareness of choices available to you, so you can be wiser in your ability to choose what works well for you.
Second, psychotherapy can help with gaining competence in relating to others.
Human beings are more social than ants or bees, and the way we relate to other people has a huge impact on our self-image, our perception of the world, and our level of well-being. Psychotherapy helps to foster competence in relating by focusing on boundaries, assertive communication, empathy for the world of another, the unintended consequences of well-intentioned actions or speech, the hidden meanings in everyday interactions, becoming clearer on why we like or dislike people in our life, seeing ourselves from the outside, and seeing others from the inside. These skills help to create greater clarity in communication and feeling, so that others will understand us better when we are with them, and we will understand them better too.
Thirdly, psychotherapy can help to gain clarity about how change happens.
Sometimes, even the idea that change is possible can be hard to believe. But psychotherapy offers a space where deep personal exploration can help a person to change how they think and how they live. When these changes become consolidated, it is not just by luck, or chance, or circumstance, but by a deliberate, informed effort, which means that the next time we need to adjust ourselves in the face of adversity, we not only have the belief that this is possible, but we have the tools required to make the change. This means that we can feel more competent and capable in life, because we know how to be the person we need to be to deal with what is in front of us.
These important dimensions of competence are difficult to acquire, and thus psychotherapy is a courageous act. They are not something that can necessarily be found through watching lectures or listening to podcasts, or even by attending meditation retreats. Taking the time to experience yourself and your life with this level of focus is profound, challenging, and beautiful. Opening up to the possibility of yourself as a new person may reveal both untold pain from your past and untold beauty in your present and future. But ultimately it leads to a sense of self-understanding and competence in life that generates a true sense of freedom, where you are in the driver’s seat and can go wherever you wish. Want to take the ride?