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Once Again, It’s Time To Talk

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Recently, I resumed seeing a therapist.

More than a decade ago, freshly out of grad school with an M.Ed. in counseling, I thought it important to try therapy for professional purposes.

As a school counselor, recommending therapy as an option for some students, it made sense to experience what I recommended. At the same time, I wanted to understand not only the similarities but also the differences between our work.

I made that initial appointment – and quickly learned I had deeper, more heartfelt reasons to continue. Each week for a few years, I dealt with wounds and internal conflicts often decades old.

At a certain point, I felt satisfied and ready to move on.

So, why a sequel?

In short, where I am at 60 is not where I was at 49.

Since then, both my parents have died. In the past year two longtime friends died by suicide. My husband is 18 years older than I – a few years younger than my mom was when she died in December. And I have been struggling with hearing loss and its attendant disconnect from students, colleagues, friends, and family when I cannot discern what they’re saying.

Questions of life, death and loss abound in a way they did not when I was a teen or young adult.

Fortunately, my original therapist was still in business, seeing patients in person (not an assumption one can make in this post-COVID, increasingly telehealth era). He let me know in my inquiry call that he will be retiring later this year.

I found that less of a burden than a benefit. I had finite time to work with him on my concerns and must zero in. If my concerns need more intensive work, I can pursue continuing with someone else.

It seems to me that our society applies the same dualistic thinking with therapy that it does with most other subjects:

Either it’s only for people with mental illness, or it’s something that ought to be the first recommendation for any immediate concern.

In a time when people struggle to find available help, I do think there’s value to discerning when a therapist is essential or even beneficial.

As for the other assumption, just as we go to the family doctor or dentist for check-ups, not just when we’re ill, so can our relationship be with mental-health practitioners.

For most of my life, without my conscious awareness, music has served as a primary form of therapy.

The day I know I can’t be affected by the Grass Roots’ “Sooner or Later” is when I need serious, immediate intervention.

Seeing a therapist need not equal a years-long commitment nor a specific diagnosis.

At the same time, there’s only so much the Top 40 can do. And so, for now: I’m back on the couch for my weekly work.

And, just as I find when I go to Mass, the real work begins when I head out into the world.

Beyond the stuff in my head to what comes out of my mouth, my hands, my heart.

And just like the first time:

I’m confident I’ll know when that work has moved from a shared, supported therapeutic effort to the daily living I can tackle with a little help from my friends.

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Chuck Small

Journalist-turned-high school counselor. Happily ensconced in Raleigh, N.C., with hubby of 31 years (9 legal).

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Virgindog
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Virgindog
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April 8, 2024 6:30 am

Thanks, Chuck. We need to be more open about therapy. There’s still a stigma about it that shouldn’t be there, and some people who really need it go without. The more of us who talk about it, the more that stigma goes away. Maybe someday it’ll be just another doctor’s appointment.

JJ Live At Leeds
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April 8, 2024 1:31 pm

Thanks for opening up Chuck and giving a useful reminder that it’s good to talk with no need for stigma. Sorry to hear about what you’ve gone through in the last year. Totally understandable that its taken a toll and seems a totally understandable reaction to seek out help in getting through it.

Pauly Steyreen
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April 8, 2024 1:46 pm

“For most of my life, without my conscious awareness, music has served as a primary form of therapy.”

You said it there, Chuck — that’s one of the many roles music plays in my life.

Edith G
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Edith G
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April 14, 2024 9:42 pm

Thank you for talk to us about this subject Chuck, therapy is necessary at certain points in the life, specially in times of crisis.

But be sure that you have a supportive system with us, even when we’re at distance from you in space, but close in this virtual place.

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