The Purpose of Mental Health Therapy
Tudor Caliman, Registered Psychologist
Founder, Made in Thought Counselling Services
Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable
Are you curious to know if it is possible to genuinely increase your comfort with being uncomfortable? If your answer is yes, then you have essentially answered the question: what is the purpose of mental health therapy?
Therapy at a fundamental level
Fundamentally, therapy is about advocating for your right to mental health, rather than striving for perfectionism, which is a thought lost in a mirage of unattainable ideals that can trigger further anguish. While the concept of perfectionism is a mirage, the word itself is very real and can be used in real terms. With that in mind, here it goes…
You are perfectly imperfect.
Anything else is a set of standards rooted in learned experiences, rules, beliefs, values, and judgements that were or are imposed by oneself and others and constructed by the natural tendency to compare. So fundamentally, actions that promote mental health and healthy change, as well as the pruning of the deep-rooted entanglements of perfectionism, can be therapeutic.
Therapy at a structural level
Structurally, therapy can be seen as a mental health gym designed to promote mental fitness and overall health. Like a gym, it offers tools, equipment, self-help manuals, assessments, and the option to connect with ‘professional trainers’ who hold different titles and qualifications, such as Registered Psychologist, reflecting their specific trainings, degrees, certifications, and experiences. The gym is not a one-size-fits-all and is where variety is the spice of life by encouraging contrast.
Contrast is where awareness can become conscious, even if only for a moment before thoughts interject.
It is basically a call for your thoughts to return home and to temporarily turn off the autopilot, offering space to refocus and hopefully begin to soothe the overdrive mode of thinking. For example, have you ever sensed an aroma that captivated your attention, bringing awareness into focus?
Therapy at a Prescriptive level
Prescriptively, therapy often prescribes self-care, not as an activity to be performed for the sake of performance or on autopilot, or as part of a ‘should or else’ expectation, or as a chore.
Self care is your permission to reground, recharge, check in and stop the tendency of checking out.
It is a buffer, great for preventative care and for promoting integration. Ask yourself this question, which may or may not endorse or deepen your approval for self-care: What is the common denominator in your life? The answer is you, which means that self-care is relational, not only in how you relate to yourself but also in how you relate to others. Self-care is other-care. The healthy act of self-care is not an act of selfishness.
Therapy at a Starting level
To voluntarily engage in an interpersonal activity, which may be unfamiliar or trigger your sense of vulnerability, deep-seated beliefs, and expectations, which may or may not signal confidence and motivation to turn towards this path. And yet, for whatever reason, you are here reading this, suggesting that you have stayed with, analyzed, and perhaps contemplated this information, so…
Could it be that you are already on this path?
Maybe you are not waiting to start, but rather considering how to continue. If so, it is important to deflate the pressure you may be experiencing. Therapy is not about passing or failing; it is not an academic act.
Life is a process without a universal manual. It is fluid, relational and promotes adaptation, not stagnation.
Changing your mindset can change your quality of life. Change not through manipulation, but in the realization that you are adaptable because you are life, and life is fluidity and transformation. It requires your belief that something different is possible, and yes, this can be difficult to validate, but you are life, and isn’t that worth promoting, not only in terms of quantity but also in quality?
Healthy change, easier said than done...
This is a thought, one that can trigger more of the same types of thoughts. Unfortunately, such thoughts can become too familiar and can trigger doubt, procrastination, and even justification for continuing to recycle the same unhealthy patterns of thoughts. Over time, with enough familiarity and momentum of such patterns, helplessness and hopelessness may arise.
Utilizing the therapeutic relationship, evidence-based interventions, and the creative act of implementing such interventions to fit specific needs is at the essence of therapy. And yet, how effective can these wonderful things be if you are not present at the table – with the good, the bad, and the ugly – to explore, implement, and exercise your right to mental health?
Are you ready to further your comfort with being uncomfortable?