Psychotherapy helps with depression and anxiety. Psychotherapy is as effective as drugs for depression and anxiety.

Therapy can help.

This way of using language is so beguiling. I do it all the time.

But read these sentences carefully and the implications are dire.

Because therapy can’t help. What can help is you and your therapist engaging in the process of psychotherapy. It’s not a small difference.

There is nothing passive about psychotherapy. It is much more similar to training for a 10k or starting a fitness program than it is to taking a drug. The comparison between therapy and drugs is a comparison of two drastically different ways of being for the patient.

The way these two alternatives are juxtaposed - as if you could either give us a pill or put us in a therapist’s office. That should enrage us. And it underlies so much of everything. Psychotherapy will be done to you. Just like most things in your life. Sit on this beach and have your vacation done to you. Get in this car and have the experience done to you. As if you - your desires, foibles, insecurities, and loves - as if you have nothing to do with what the picture looks like.

What does investing in the process of therapy look like? It looks like: going to regular appointments, speaking your thoughts and feelings, and trying to take in the process - however it is for you. And I don’t mean listening to your therapist. I mean speaking the experience of working with your therapist. Listening when you want to and not listening when you want to. And then reflecting on that (perhaps even when you don’t want to). Engaging with yourself and your therapist in a process that is aimed at your well-being.

When I hear “Psychotherapy is effective in treating depression” I have a picture of a mental health professional shoving something large  (perhaps a boot) into the patient’s mouth. And of a lot of words - do this, do that, think about this, think about that.

We can’t push therapy into and onto people.

But if a human being is looking for a way to grapple with themselves. To dig in, to test, to experiment, to open up. Us therapists have chosen this as our life’s work. And it is a good place to invest.

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