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A Deeper Look Into Modern Therapy

Modern Therapy      In Milos Forman’s 1975 comedic drama, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Randle McMurphy and his motley band of asylum dwellers are swept away from the community’s eye, locked in a secluded Oregon institution.  There, patients are expected to succumb to treatment administered by the notorious, ironfisted Nurse Ratched. Her flinty, calculating stares, passive-aggressive mannerisms and strict enforcement of hospital codes make her, in the eyes of the patients, the ultimate high priestess of hell.  This kind of representation of mental health professionals and the treatment of mental illness in general have become popular both in media, as well as society. Many view treatment, especially therapy in a skeptical light. Therapy is often rendered to the idea of merely paying someone to pawn off internal conflicts to, with little genuine effect on making its recipients feel better.  However, as an individual soon approaching the end of my fourth month in therapy, I’ve come to realize the deeper implications and processes behind therapy, and how many misconceptions regarding it have circulated. Therapy has evolved significantly over the past decades, and may be slightly different from what you think.

     For starters, most modern therapists, psychologists, etc will not force you into doing anything that you wouldn’t be comfortable with.  Mental health professionals are people too, and understand the importance of having a say in how you handle your own mental health. You might be challenged to come out of your comfort zone by discussing sensitive scenarios in your life, or be encouraged to spend more time around friends.  However, you won’t be pressured to blurt out your deepest secrets immediately or start medication. When it all boils down, you are the one in control of making the best decisions for yourself. Therapy’s effectiveness directly correlates with what you contribute to the session.

     Secondly, there are multiple forms of therapy outside of the solemn, “bespectacled psychologist with a notepad” mold.  Individuals who feel intimidated by sitting alone in a room with a therapist may prefer group therapy, where clients interact with others who’ve undergone similar issues to theirs and working them out in unison.  Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) and other forms of “eye movement” therapy can provide individuals with PTSD, depression and anxiety relief from distressing memories, replacing the emotions associated with those memories with more positive ones.  According to psychology research organization Psychology Today, other therapy formats may include marriage counseling therapy, mindfulness therapy, or even animal-assisted therapy.

     Additionally, the importance of being listened to, especially in the context of mental illness, is frequently overlooked.  Within a controlled, secure, confidential environment, even the shyest of voices may finally feel comfortable to share what is on their mind.  Furthermore, these individuals are ensured an opportunity to have their concerns validated and heard, even when they struggle to do so most of the time.

Lastly, we can’t always manage our mental health by ourselves.  It takes tremendous courage and humility to reach out and admit we need professional help.  Assuming that mental health issues can be dealt with by simply “toughening up” is common, but many people do not realize how hard it is to find the emotional strength to navigate intense emotions alone.  By interacting with an external entity, individuals are pushed to venture out of their usual comfort zone and avoid falling into bad habits. Additionally, having an outside, unbiased viewer such as a therapist provides an alternate perspective of certain issues that someone might be facing.  This can help individuals avoid distorted thinking patterns and shift toward more logical, healthy thoughts.

     Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut cure for mental illness.  The effects of mental illness are particular to each person. There is not one specific method that will guarantee success in all individuals.  Personally, I’ve still got a long road ahead to reach my own mental health goals, as do countless others. However, therapy, along with several other methods, is part of the vast array of tools accessible to keep a clean mindframe.  It’s just up to us whether we reach out for them and put them to use.

Lila Villasenor