What is therapy for?

When deciding on whether to undertake treatment it may be worth considering how, and if, therapy can help.  I will use the term ‘therapy’ as an abbreviation for various counselling or psychotherapy interventions.

The first issue to consider is that therapy in its many forms is a specialised activity undertaken by trained therapists.  It may be a comfort for many just to talk to someone but there are limits to what therapy can do and as a specialist intervention it usually involves helping someone to change the way they feel, or think about themselves, others and their future, or how they behave. Or all of these. 

So, secondly, the focus of therapy is therefore emotional or psychological in nature rather than the external reasons for ones distress such as for example noisy neighbours. These psychological factors (how you feel, think, and behave) are the ones that are amenable to change, not the neighbours.  Having said that if the distress, say, of noisy neighbours undermines ones ability to deal with difficult situations by affecting the way they see themselves or behave then therapy may be able to address these specific issues even if it cannot solve the problem of the neighbours.  For example if the neighbours behaviour leaves you seeing yourself in a particularly negative way like a failure or as being no good then therapy may help to address these shifts in how you perceive yourself.   Just as therapy may help one to adjust to a chronic health condition, or help to empower someone to challenge an unfair situation.

Thirdly, and just as important for many, is the use of therapy for self-development, to be able to function better by relating to themselves and others and the community in a way which is much more positive.  That has to be a good thing, right?

So, therapy is there for you when in a period of distress such as stress, anxiety, depression, loss, trauma, or a need to learn to problem solve better.  It cannot solve external issues such as Covid 19, but it can help you to address the distress that the way you think or feel or behave is having on you and how it may be contributing to the distress you feel.  It can also help you learn to function in a way that enables you to live a more fulfilling life.