Carolyn Hax: He's in therapy but doesn't believe in it

The Washington PostJune 14, 2014 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Carolyn: I have my first therapy appointment scheduled for this weekend. I never wanted to go, but my wife convinced me that issues I struggle with were damaging our marriage. I can't help but feel like I'll be smarter than the therapist when it comes to knowing what I need, and that I'll find his advice pointless.

Still, I want to do this for my wife and marriage. Do you have any advice for how a nontherapy-believer can keep from self-sabotage? I want this to work, even if deep down I don't believe it can.

FIRST-TIME THERAPY-GOER

Do you go into doctors' offices thinking you know more about anatomy and biochemistry than your doctor? Into a garage thinking you know more about cars than your mechanic? Into a class thinking you know more about the subject than the teacher?

Why do you assume there's no way a therapist can know more about emotional patterns and habits than you do?

Please do this not for your wife and marriage, but for yourself. The arrogance of certainty is the surest way to close yourself off to new knowledge and experiences, and new knowledge and experiences are, to my mind, the whole point of getting out of bed in the morning.

Re: First-timer: Most therapists do not give advice, at least at first. If you go in expecting to be told a bunch of answers in a couple of sessions you're going to be disappointed. Good therapy starts just by having a conversation about what's bothering you and having the therapist listen. It is a big leap of faith, but you have to sort of trust that process.

ANONYMOUS

Yes, excellent point. The closest most therapists come to advising is to guide your self-examination, flag things worth a closer look, and suggest strategies for getting different results from the ones that put you on the couch in the first place. Thanks.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at washingtonpost.com.

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