More than a Couch


Colleen Burke, Opinion Editor

Stop and take a look around the room, what do you see? A large, cushy chair, one giant couch, soft lighting, a pad of paper, and a box of tissues. The walls are lined with slightly tilted books and there is a little bit of sun peering through the blinds. A woman sits down in the chair and smiles kindly, as you timidly look back.

There have been some misconceptions about going to therapy, and about therapists in general. Often people refer to these doctors as “shrinks” which actually means that they are “headshrinkers”, or people in an Amazonian tribe who captured and shrunk the heads of their enemies (according to Psychology Today). A therapist is certainly not someone there to harm you or shrink your head, they are there as a tool or a guide through difficult times in your life.

Stepping into a building for the first time is extremely intimidating. There is a great deal of trepidation one might feel when entering such an unusual situation. It commences by sitting down in a waiting room and pressing a button which lights up to let the doctor know you are there. And then you wait. Once he or she comes to get you the process truly starts.

They ask about your home life – family, money, arguments. And that seems to be a main target point for the majority of conversation other than friends or work. After you start discussing your life, whether it be good or bad aspects, certain things seem to dawn on you about what is hindering or helping your happiness.

The woman I met had a wonderful first impression, poised and with a gentle smile. There seemed to be no pressure in the situation; however, I didn’t feel like any stranger would be any sort of help. But what I realized is that what I needed was to keep an open mind and allow myself the freedom to delve into my innermost thoughts – let secrets out and my feelings show.

It was a tedious start, but as I got more comfortable it appeared easier to come to her and tell her what I was thinking. Soon enough I practically wanted to call  her at the end of a day when something monumental happened, just so she could share with me in my momentary elation or woe. She felt like a guardian to me, someone to look up to that I could tell anything without fear of judgement. It was a favorable feeling to not be the one giving advice, but to be getting it; although it also made me recognize that I had possibly helped others by simply listening to their problems. In truth it is always wonderful and comforting to go to a friend or family member with worry or complaint or jubilation, but there is something sacred and safe in discussing your life with an outside party who can understand it without any outside factors.

A therapist doesn’t sit there and try to decipher your whole life. They don’t try to make you come to profound realizations or dig up repressed memories to make you feel something you wish you didn’t. Some of that could happen, but in reality the main purpose of their job, of their life’s work, is to help. And that kind of help is no different than raising money for food or shelter, because taking care of one’s self and emotions is equally important for survival and success.