Rabbi Azriel Hauptman
If therapy was free, would you see a therapist? In other words, if you are a “normal” person, your life is going great, and you have absolutely no problems to discuss, would you benefit from seeing a therapist? In real life, the cost of therapy in both time and money prevents most of the so-called normal people from utilizing this resource. However, as a thought experiment, let us explore how therapy could possibly benefit your average person in an imaginary world where therapy was free and accessible.
Before we continue, we must begin with a disclaimer. On a certain level, psychotherapy is invasive. Not in the physical sense, but in the realm of emotions and sometimes values. Even if you may benefit from therapy, this does not mean that you should jump in blindfolded. Are you ready to rock the boat of your psyche? Are you sure that the therapist that you are seeing is appropriate for you? You would not sign yourself up for a medical procedure without careful thought and due diligence. The same is true with therapy.
Furthermore, therapy is not the only intervention that can enhance your emotional health. For some people, daily exercise and a healthy diet can offer more benefits. For others, getting together with friends regularly is the key. Some people need a close friend who can be a listening ear, and the list goes on.
With that in mind, here is a list of issues that are basically universal that can possibly benefit from therapy.
Many of us attach our value to our output and accomplishments. When we become too old to be gainfully employed, or we lose some other way that we were contributing, we often start feeling less valuable. This can happen at any age, but it is especially common in individuals who transition (or are transitioned) into retirement. Self-worth is the notion that our value as a human being is inherent and intrinsic and is not attached to any specific ability that we may or may not have. This afflicts almost all of us on some level, and therapy can teach a person how to gain that sense of inherent worth.
We have Gedolim biographies about very special individuals who had marriages that were completely immune to any negativity at all. For the rest of us, even if we are in a great and fulfilling marriage, we all must admit that there is always room for improvement. There might be areas of connection and communication that the couple is overlooking that can enhance their relationship. A clinician that is experienced and trained in marital therapy can teach you ways to improve your marriage that you would not have been able to figure out on your own.
Changing diapers and getting up in the middle of the night for a crying baby is the easy part of raising children. How to guide them through the confusion of adolescence while maintaining a strong bond with them is terribly difficult. Even if you are doing a great job, there is certainly room for improvement. Just ask your kids!
Many people feel stuck in their profession and have lost the drive and fulfillment that they once had. Is it time to explore a career change? Maybe it is simply a midlife crisis and through a change of perspective one can rediscover the enjoyment that was once felt in this occupation. Therapy can certainly help for that.
Once again, we must reference the Gedolim biographies that depict amazing people who never felt a grudge against another human being. Most of us, on some level, maintain a certain amount of hard feelings towards people with whom we have had negative experiences. Guess what? That is psychologically harmful and therapy can help that too! The emotional peace that one can achieve by learning how to let go and move on is worthwhile.
In conclusion, under the right circumstances, therapy can be beneficial even for people who do not have a clinical diagnosis. There is always room for growth, and therapy is one of tools out there that can be transformative.