Therapy Isn’t for Everyone
Let’s talk about the people harmed by mainstream mental health
The first time I sought out therapy, I was met with a smiling gender-conforming white lady who furrowed her brows when I described the pain I was in and said softly to me that it “must be so hard.” It made me immediately want to bolt from the room. Instead, I just sat there and cried.
I was in graduate school, depressed and unmoored, and the therapist was overseeing a social anxiety group I was desperate to join. She sat me down on a couch across from her and asked a few gentle, quiet questions about what it felt like for me when I tried to make friends. I didn’t know how to answer. I never really tried to make friends at all. Friendships were driven by an invisible machinery I didn’t know how to take apart or reassemble. There was a deep longing inside me for connection, but if you put another human being in front of me, I’d freeze up. Which is exactly what I did in the therapy office.
It seemed pathetic that I couldn’t give voice to my problems. It was clear the therapist was disappointed by it. More pathetic still was the fact that I was in my mid-twenties and had no close friendships and no conception of how to make them. My inner life was a painful, pitiful mystery to me, and this woman wanted me to somehow lay it bare so it could be fixed. What did trying to make friends “feel like”? What did anything feel like? Every day, in every situation, I felt the exact same: pissed off and freaked out and miserably lonely. What did she expect me to say?
The therapist sat with her hands resting in her lap and pulled a ton of frowning, empathetic faces while I sobbed and sobbed before her. I choked out a few words about not knowing how to make friends and feeling very trapped by my own inhibitions, but none of them seemed to move her. After I was done sputtering, she told me that perhaps, in the social anxiety support group, I’d be able to explore some of those difficult feelings as I got to know the group’s other members. Maybe I’d even find myself trying to befriend some of them.
It seemed like a bizarre comment to make. I’d hoped this group would impart some specific social skills or that by helping me “get to the bottom” of my fear…