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“Therapy Sucks” Is Something We Hear in Couples Therapy

Therapy is hard workYou know how every now and then, a theme, topic, or sentiment seems to stick out with this intense and repetitive energy? Almost like the universe is trying to cue you into a particularly important message. Well, for us at Elevating Relationships, it’s the concept that therapy sucks sometimes. 

I (Lori Brewster) remember being an early teenager and going to therapy for the very first time with my mom and 2 brothers. I think the family goal was for us to learn how to be more supportive of one another… or a version of something sappy like that (wink wink). Usually, I was a chill teen, a rule follower (mostly), and outwardly agreeable even if I disagreed on the inside. Well, something came over me in that therapy office and I was just angry and mean and vocal about all my teenage angst (Smells Like Teen Spirit, right Nirvana?). I remember spewing some fire at the therapist. I said variations of the following statements: “therapy is a bunch of crap”, therapy doesn’t work”, “I don’t know why we are here in the first place”, “this is so boring”, and “this is such a waste of time”.

Let us take a moment of supportive silence for all those seeking individual therapy, couples therapy (marriage therapy), or family therapy. And for all the therapists ready to join them on that challenging journey.

Unfortunately, my teenage “therapy sucks” moment led to that also being the last time we all went to therapy together as a family. Sigh!

Whew! I cannot tell you the number of times we have heard a similar sentiment shared with us at Elevating Relationships. Either on an initial intake call or while successfully discharging clients who are thanking us and tearfully reminiscing about what they originally felt about couples therapy.

I have wondered over the years what might have been different in my family if we stayed in therapy. Would we have learned to communicate in a healthier way? Would we have learned to take responsibility for our feelings, thoughts, and actions sooner? Would we have developed deeper compassion for one another? Would we have been able to avoid some of the cutoffs and painful interactions that occurred over the following years? Would we have been able to heal faster from common family mishaps and enjoy each other more? Would we have been better at grieving after my little brother died not long after? My therapist’s heart says, “yes, probably”. Of course, the irony isn’t lost on me that I became a couples therapist many years later. I’ve drank ALL the Kool-Aid.

At Elevating Relationships, we believe couples therapy (or individual, family, etc.) can be incredibly helpful. And, also, again, therapy sucks.

But why does therapy suck so bad?

Why do people share that they get nervous, shaky, angry, and apprehensive when joining a session?

Why do “consents to treatment” often highlight the “risks of therapy”?

Well, let us crack this messy egg open a bit…

Change sucks.

Peering deep into one’s heart and filtering out all the noise and tuning into one’s internal voice can suck. It can make us squirmy. And squirmy sucks.

Accountability sucks.

The acknowledgement that there are other ways to do things sucks.

Looking in the mirror sucks.

Exploring old habits that are not working and creating new habits that stretch you sucks.

Giving up those old habits really sucks sometimes.

Stretching like Gumby as you try out new habits or skills sucks sometimes too.

Stretching and growing sucks.

Unearthing maladaptive coping skills sucks.

Learning new coping skills sucks.

Exploring our life stories, the ups and downs- it just sucks sometimes.

And, by “sucks”, I mean, it’s occasionally unpleasant, uncomfortable, irritating, icky, and nerve wracking.

Why? Because the status quo can be super comfortable.

Status quo is like a cozy couch that you can just melt into and watch the world go by.

And, also, we all know that the couch is only comfortable until it’s not. Inevitably, after too long on the couch, you start to get that lower back ache that becomes increasingly more and more irritating. And, yet, getting off that couch feels like an Olympian feat. But, once you are off the couch, you begin to walk around to stretch your back. Perhaps you walk outside and BAM! You are amazed at all the beautiful colors and endless possibilities of just being off the couch. You may even begin to regret being on that couch for so long. Even grieve the lost opportunities.

Our existing state may not be exactly where we want to be but the journey to be somewhere else isn’t all that appealing either. I want to stay unbothered on the seemingly “comfortable” couch. I also want to be outside, living my best life, exploring, and free from that annoying back pain.

My back is aching, so I gotta get up, but the door feels so far away!

And, well, that’s often where therapy comes in (couples therapy or individual therapy).

My back is aching is the equivalent to…

My marriage is on the rocks.

We’re always fighting.Couples Therapy is hard work

We don’t know how to communicate.

It feels like we’re just roommates.

We don’t have sex anymore.

I can’t stand looking at myself in the mirror.

I can’t seem to maintain a healthy relationship.

I had a not so favorable review at work.

My anxiety is killing me.

This grief is overwhelming.

I can’t seem to figure out how to get through conflict without exploding.

My past trauma is haunting me.

My friend said I should probably talk to someone.

Or, fill in the blank for the millions of reasons that prompt BRAVE individuals and couples to reach out.

Sometimes, therapy is “learning to live with the unimaginable” (shout out to our fellow Hamilton fans).

Therapy can be eye opening. Therapy encourages growth. Therapy suggests new ways of doing things.

Therapy supports healing broken hearts.

Therapy helps couples learn how to thrive in their marriage- even after years of distance, unhealthy communication, or betrayal.

Therapy unravels what’s gone wrong in relationships.

Therapy offers tools to have a healthier marriage.

Therapy honors your story and helps to edit it moving forward based on your preferences.

Therapy helps you to see you- to love you, to value you, to respect you, to cherish you.

Therapy also helps you and your partner to see each other again- perhaps even remember why you got together in the first place.

Therapy supports your anxiety, your grief, your depression, and your trauma. Therapy offers tools to work through these vast and challenging topics. Therapy helps us to love what we see when we look in the mirror.

Therapy helps couples to love once again. Love richer, deeper, more intimately.

But it’s not always an easy process. It takes “blood, sweat, and tears”. Well, not necessarily the “blood” part but you get the drift. It can feel like you’re being gutted. The journey to catching your breath and eventually breathing easier can be difficult.

Come on Ella Fitzgerald fans- you know it- “Summertime and the Livin’ is Easy”…

“One of these mornings

You’re gonna rise up singing

Yes, you’ll spread your wings

And you’ll take to the sky”

We understand though that the “morning” of “easy living” isn’t always easy to get to. It takes growth. And growing pains are a REAL THING. Too often, people give up before they reach the goal they set for themselves. It’s like the perpetual gym membership that doesn’t get used enough. It’s hard to change things up. People have a love/hate relationship with the gym. They know all the wonderful benefits available to them if they stay committed. And, the process is a literal pain in the behind.

It’s like therapy. Except, the growing pains are less physical. Sticking with therapy isn’t easy- it’s an emotional, physical, financial, and time commitment. Yet, just like the gym, those that stick with it experience profound changes that become the reward for all their hard work.

So, next time you think that “therapy sucks”, just know that we hear you. Feel free to say it out loud. We’ve felt it too. We also hope that at some point, you might also be able to say, “therapy works”.

We’re here for you on this tough journey.

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