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  • Writer's pictureShane Mahon

What is Therapy?

In 2023, therapy is more widely accepted and socially acceptable than it has ever been. The longstanding stigma that you are, "crazy" if you're in therapy is dissipating. Among the general progression of American culture and it's values, the Covid-19 Pandemic seemed to greatly influence the desire and need for therapy. My theory is that during the pandemic, we lost so many of our distractions. The things that we use to sooth and avoid the many feelings we face each day. On top of the loss of coping structures, there was a vicarious trauma. The very real feeling of being trapped, lost, and in constant danger of illness or death. Although this was a common feeling amongst many americans, it did not lend to a sense of camaraderie or connectedness. Instead, we were encouraged to isolate, even from the members of our own households. Doing so created an environment of pain and suffering both physically and emotionally.

These factors heavily contributed to the need to reach out for help. In our desperation, it seems so many of us bypassed the social stigma around therapy. As a clinician who worked throughout the entirety of the pandemic, I can say that the uptick in incoming calls was astounding. I would average over thirty calls a week. Prior to the pandemic, a busy week was around three to five. It was completely overwhelming in the best and worst possible ways.

For those who are curious, lets define what therapy is. The three tenants of therapy are that it is relational experience. It is highly professional in nature. And finally is its structured in a way that holds the safety of both individuals in high regard.

Therapy is complex and consists of many things. At its core is relationship. A safe, secure and consistent relationship. It is the task of the therapist to give their patient the experience of being seen, valued and respected. For so many of us, that can feel like an entirely foreign concept. For others whose lives are more full of love and support, it can seem redundant. Why should I pay someone to listen to me? Its a great question. The experience of being seen is much more than being listened to. Trusted friends, family and mentors can listen just as well. The difference is that when sitting with the therapist, You are the the focus of the relationship. It is a one way exchange. The therapist expects nothing in return. For some, this may sound ideal, and for others it can be quite difficult to be the focus of a conversation.

A therapist is operating under a professional license, which is obtained through extensive training, schooling and experience. Therapy is not coaching. Therapy is based off of a variety of evidence based practices that have been clinically proven to help individuals improve their mental health. All professional counseling/ therapy programs require an individual to become self-aware. A therapist is required to notice how they feel during a session and are tasked with attending to their own emotional experience so that it frees up space for the patient to be the focus of the session. Many therapists are also in their own clinical treatment to support them through the weight of what comes from being in this profession. This naturally comes as a byproduct of the self-awareness that is necessary to be an effective clinician. Your therapist will have the lived experience of what is feels like to view ones self, and therefore have more compassion for you as you sit in the seat across from them.

All professional therapists are required to adhere to a certain set of ethical guiding principals.Ethics are an invaluable structure that help to maintain the overall safety of the clinician as well as the patient. A large portion of clinical practice is learning and embodying these values. A therapists ethics will help to maintain the integrity of their profession as well as to value you as a person. One of the most important ethical values is that of privacy. The foundational effectiveness of therapy is based off of a trusting relationship. This is rooted in the idea that what you tell your therapist, the world will not know. There are of course exceptions to this, but those are based around individual safety, which the therapist holds in paramount. Your therapist will discuss these instances with you during your initial intake appointment. Most therapists will not list their catalogue of professional values for you, unless you ask, but it is important to remember that they would not be where they are if they did not embody them.

As a leader and business owner I work tirelessly to ensure that all the people that come through our virtual or phsycial doors have the experience of being treated with respect, professionalism and safety. You can rest assured, at Anchored Soul, I rigorously ensure that myself and my staff are deeply embodying what it means to be a therapist, and how to offer the highest quality of therapy.

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