Person To Person: Talk Therapy Is Like Mental Housekeeping

By Judi Light Hopson, Emma H. Hopson and Ted Hagen
McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

Have you thought about signing up for psychological counseling?

Maybe you’ve been stressed out for years, and you know you’d like to give “talk therapy” a try.

But, as you type in search terms to locate a good therapist, you waver and change your mind. Why? You’re scared.

What if, you wonder, your boss finds out you’re in counseling? Or worse, what if the people in your life starting calling you crazy?

Well, you can relax. Keep in mind that counselors go to other counselors. Ministers, doctors, lawyers, and business people all go to psychological counselors.

Who doesn’t have significant issues causing stress these days? All of us could likely use some good mental housekeeping.

When you understand how counseling works, you’ll think of it as having a life coach.

Private counseling for your psychological issues works a lot like coaching. It’s just a way to have a professional “listener” help you de-clutter your thoughts and emotions, so you can focus better on your game.

“My counselor helped me clean out the junk,” says a minister we’ll call Matt. “My brain was about to explode with all the worry and fear I was carrying. A woman who’d kept books for our ministry had siphoned off $150,000 into her personal bank account!”

Matt goes on to say that he felt much lighter within a few weeks.

“Have you ever noticed how hard it is to clean out a garage?” says Matt. “The more you shift stuff around, the crazier you feel.

But, when you just take everything out of the garage and put it outside, you can clean the space. Then, you put back just the stuff you want to keep. Therapy works like that.”

Matt makes a good point we can all relate to. We’ve all tried to clean a kitchen cabinet, a walk-in closet, or a bedroom and felt like giving up.

Moving stuff around doesn’t seem to work. But, if you take everything out of the cabinet, the closet or the room first, and then clean the space, toss out stuff, and put the good stuff back, this works.

Here’s how therapy works:

-You can vent your emotions and share secrets. This feels good. For example, it’s probably not wise to tell your spouse you’re thinking of having an affair. But, you can tell a counselor.

-You can divulge any shame. While you don’t want to tell your co-workers you lied on a business report, for instance, you can tell a counselor.

-You can talk about fear. A professional counselor is not going to be shocked about your deepest worries. You can tell this person you’re scared to death you’ll lose your job or scared of being trapped in a bad job forever.

The good thing about opening up is this: You can take an honest look at all the “junk” that’s been hiding in your brain.

Next, you can decide what to keep and what to throw out. Therapy will help you decide what’s important and what’s not. This restores your personal power.

“My husband had an affair 15 years ago,” says a teacher we’ll call Jeanna. “In therapy, my counselor helped me see that I had the power to move past this betrayal. My husband was truly sorry about the affair, but I was the one clinging to the pain of it. Counseling helped me clean out the clutter and move forward.”
(Judi Light Hopson is the Executive Director of the stress management website Emma Hopson is an author and a nurse educator. Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.)

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