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Has therapy become the easy answer?
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Dear Carolyn • Sometimes I get frustrated by what seems the default solution to everything: therapy. (Not just you, but our society in general.) This morning I realized that "therapy" is really just code for: changes take time and a different perspective. I suppose sort of like in AA, where your "higher power" doesn't necessarily have to be God; or losing weight, little changes over time, two steps forward, one step back, carry on. Anyway, thought I'd share.

Therapy Default

Dear Therapy Default • I think yours is a common impression — but I'd be surprised if anything close to a majority of people sought therapy for their problems. Yet, many people spin their wheels for years on the "different perspective" element of change. And where are they going to get a brisk shove out of the mud if they reject the idea of therapy out of hand? A sharp friend often works, if you have one and are receptive to sharp messages. Some people are able to get out of their muck without any outside assistance, but others aren't. As a rule, I suggest therapy when I see spinning wheels, and skip suggesting it where I see self-motivated progress. Still, good therapists can even help those who help themselves, by serving the basic purpose of listening uninterrupted to a situation (as a client presents it).

Dear Carolyn • Much to ponder ... The idea of "listening uninterrupted" is appealing. Is this kind of listening only possible in therapy? I'm thinking because of the financial compensation, the listener is sort of automatically rewarded, and there's less emotional responsibility or interaction compared to, say, a friend or sister.

Therapy Default again

Dear Therapy Default • It's not just financial compensation, it's a reward just to do a job well — i.e., to help someone. The other element of uninterrupted listening is that the therapist is theoretically not invested in any outcome besides the client's good health, where a friend or sister might want you to break up with someone, move somewhere, mend fences with someone, etc., for her own reasons, even if it's not in your best interests.

Carolyn Hax's column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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