When I was younger, I had a friend who was in a terrible relationship. He was really abusive to her and she knew that she should break up with him, but she didn't want to. We had suggested - many of us had suggested to her - to go to therapy and her defense was: No, no, no, I can't go. I know what they're going to say. They're just going to say break up with him. So I don't want to go. I imagine this is a fairly common perspective or belief of what people think - if they went to therapy, the therapist would say hey, you need to do this, this, and this and all these things are bad for you. I want you to know that's not true. A good therapist will not say do this. They will not judge you. Their main goal is to help you understand your own patterns and your own blind spots. They're going to help you understand what it is in you that wants to be with the abusive boyfriend and why you're drawn to him. They're not going to say you need to break up with him - that's not a therapist's place. We do not give very concrete advice such as do this, we sit with you and help you think through the different aspects of yourself, the different sides of you (one side wants this, but one side wants this) and we try to help you resolve the conflicts. That's sort of a general overview of therapy. If you get really specific: there are many different types of therapists and we all seem different sitting in the room. On one hand, you have what's called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. If you go see CBT therapists, they're going to be much more active with you. They're going to be coming up with ideas along with you and they're probably going to give you homework. They're going to say let's figure out how to treat these symptoms in the most direct way possible. There's tons of different types of therapists, but let's go to the other end of the spectrum. Let's go to, say, a psychodynamic therapist. Someone like that is going to sit down and they're going to be much more laid back and their goal with you is to go over your life story - what happened in your life, things that happened before. Say your parents got divorced and your house was really upset for four years, but that happened when you were 14 and now you're 18 - a psychodynamic therapist is really going to try to look at that and realize how that affected you. Let's say right now your symptoms are: you tried drugs or you're cutting or you're depressed, you don't know what you want to do with your life. They're going to look at the whole big picture to say, Hey, you know what? I bet you that stuff back there really hurt and there's a possibility that that has to do with your drugs right now. No therapist is going to look at your bad behavior and judge you for it. They're going to see it as a defense and a band-aid for something that hurts underneath.
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