By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Content Agency
Q: After a tough few pandemic years, I’m considering therapy to help my mental health at work. My job is stressful and got worse during COVID. When do you know your mental health is bad enough to need therapy? What should you expect to get out of therapy? I’m not in a crisis yet and unsure whether therapy is really necessary for me?
A: Therapy, like exercise, is something you want to do before you’re in crisis. Waiting until you have a crisis is like waiting until you need back surgery before you’re willing to exercise or stretch.
Effective therapy is an interpersonal gym where you work out regularly to build stamina, flexibility, and strength. Most adults do not need therapy but all adults benefit from being proactive about health including mental health.
Each of us gets to choose whether we’re reactive or proactive in our decision making. Adults that are reactive often feel like observers in their lives while they watch “things” fall apart. Adults that are proactive see issues coming and solve problems before they happen.
My clients view their weekly counseling work with me as adult graduate school. What you should expect to get out of therapy depends on what you are willing to put into it. If you are willing to go for at least a year of weekly sessions, you should expect to learn the process of improved decision making.
Most adults rarely notice the habitual way they make choices. Good therapy helps us see areas in which we consistently use processes that undermine our effectiveness.
For instance, many of us have a habit of scolding people who do not act as we want. People feel ashamed and angry when we do this and then get even. Yet we may not know a better way to handle conflict.
Doing yoga is a good analogy. Why is counseling helpful when we’re not in crisis? Most yoga practitioners do not wait to go to classes until they have physical injuries. Most people who regularly attend yoga go because the flexibility and strength they develop prevents physical problems.
I find that clients who wait until they have an emergency before they call for therapy are often the same clients who avoid the work to prevent the next emergency. Obviously, there are times when life throws a crisis at us that we cannot avoid. Clients who call me with an unavoidable emergency tend to do effective work in counseling. People who confuse mental health with a 9-1-1 emergency service and wait until a crisis falls upon them are hard to help for the same reasons they avoided being proactive.
Here is the best mental framework for therapy: You’re not signing up to work on how broken you are, but on how problems are breaking you open to better habits and tools. Whether therapy is necessary is less the issue.
Spiritually oriented teachers tell us the development of our soul involves eternal and liberating education. Being in effective therapy means you’re learning to turn the lemons of problems into the lemonade of wisdom and power…one week at a time!
The last word(s)
Q: I tend to be sarcastic. People tell me they get annoyed with me, but I’m trying to tell truth with humor. Does sarcasm ever work in communication?
A: Nope, the trouble with sarcasm is the only message received is you are being offensive. You’re better off learning strategic negotiation skills and delivering your message clearly!
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel’s “Workplace Guru” each Monday morning. She’s the author of “Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything” (Hay House, 2006). Contact Dr. Skube at www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. No personal replies.