By Chay Tanchanco, PPS, AMFT
I feel like I’ve been having a lot of conversations with people lately about the daunting *commitment* of therapy.
Maybe it’s the millennial in me that feels sympathetic to people looking for quick solutions or low-commitment turnaround for results, but realistically, the pace of life in our generation is often at high speed.
Therapy is, at its core, an intentional pause button, a slow-motion capture of moments we have driven back and forth through at 80mph on an empty gas tank. We are so used to doing things the way we’ve already done them, hundreds if not thousands of times throughout our lifetime. So if we are going to slow down, even for a little while, then it better be worth it.
Three specific fears I’ve heard related to therapy commitment:
I won’t find someone who understands me.
I don’t have time to go to an appointment every week.
It’s too expensive and I won’t get my money’s worth.
As a therapist and a friend, when people say these things I recognize that they’re really saying:
“I know I need help, I want to change, and I want to do it right.”
Those are legitimate concerns. Time is money, and we are busy beings. For many of us, it might be the first time we ever discuss something or realize something about ourselves that has hindered us for years. The person sitting in the room with us better be able to keep up! It’s important that we all find someone we can trust with our personal issues, our faults, and our hopes and dreams because being vulnerable with a new person is incredibly scary.
But therapy doesn’t have to be.
Imagine you have been driving with half of your windows covered, all of the time you’ve ever been driving. You can see through the front, and one side window and mirror, but your back window is non-existent and you can’t check your blind spot on one side. You have been getting through life regardless, but sometimes you hit things. But you’re also very used to calling your insurance and filing claims and paying other people for the damages. You can sometimes notice that other people don’t have their windows covered, but it never occurred to you that your windows could be that way.
You just assumed your car could never change. It’s “just like that”.
A good therapist recognizes that you are in the driver’s seat of your life, and they are not taking over the wheel for you. They can uncover those darkened windows. They may also point out that your keys are stuck under the seat, or that your Maps app actually hasn’t been updated in a few years, or that when you brake it causes the whole car to lurch forward, or that there’s a secret route past traffic that you never knew existed. And then you see how your life shifts, you learn to notice and change those things for yourself.
If you had the resources, yes, it would be awesome to have a therapist as long term and regularly as you wanted. But more often than not, you can schedule your therapy to fit your schedule. It doesn’t have to take long. You can even ask them to focus on just one problem, just like you would go to a doctor and ask them to help you through an infection.
The therapeutic landscape is changing because we as a society are filling in the map with new navigation. You are in the driver’s seat of your therapeutic experience, and when you open your mind to even a short-term pause for retrospect, you’ll find the routes of possibility unfold.