No, it’s not Christmas or even close to that holiday. But it’s come to my attention recently that there are still people around who do not believe in psychological therapy. Could this be? Yes. It could be and it is, and I know some of them.
So here’s the deal: I remember being in my mid-teens and feeling that I needed some help. I asked my mother if I could see a psychologist and she turned me down flat. Flat.
Why was that?
Because her secret fear was that she had done something wrong. That she would be blamed if there were any issues. That she had failed in some way. And my father, a doctor, felt exactly the same way back then.
I can see you modern moms now, some feeling great compassion and others bristling that parents could be so self-centered. But in fact, that’s the way it was in the mid-1960s. Mental health was not a topic one spoke about or dealt with, except in whispers. It was a sign of someone’s failure, and parental failure was to be avoided at all costs.
Now, I didn’t turn out so badly. Once I was out of my parents’ house I managed to do a great deal of therapy and it was very helpful. I don’t regret a single one of the thousands of dollars I spent to orient myself to life in a more useful way. Thank God for it! It didn’t stop me from making mistakes, but some of the most interesting chapters of my life could be viewed as mistakes.
Not by me, though.
Did my parents fail me? Sure. All parents fail in one way or another. It’s part of being human. I’m just sorry that the times and my parents’ narrow viewpoints didn’t permit them to be more supportive of my request for help.
Even today, when antidepressants are advertised on TV just about every hour, I see this fearful attitude in some conservative Boomers. This idea that if a kid needs help, it reflects badly on parents. A shame, really, because many of them have kids who badly needed or still need therapy.
Although we’ve come a long way, there are still some stalwart holdouts, and to them, I say:
Get over yourselves. If your kid needs help, see that he gets it. Support him in his quest.
And if in the process, you happen to take a good hard look in the mirror and want to change a thing or two, well, that’s great. Because no one’s perfect.
In my way of thinking, the only “failure” is if intelligent parents resist allowing modern science to help their kids. It seems like parents might think it reflects badly upon them, as if they were passing on defective DNA; when sometimes though its merely a chemical imbalance in one’s brain. My two cents on it, anyway.
It depends on how we view the therapy process. Some consider it over-indulgent and self-centered. I always saw it as a way to straighten out the kinks, but my assumption (which I have shared with all of my children) is that A) we all have kinks and B) if there’s a way to work them out and you don’t do it, what is the argument for that? Parents who would EVER discourage a growing or grown child from achieving a better understanding of who they are and how they fit into life, I think, have the bigger kink of associating suffering with “normal life.”
I agree that we all have our kinks and it’s helpful to work them out!