One of the first things I learned after beginning to practice psychotherapy was that everyone is at least a little neurotic, and everyone, at one time or another, could do with a little therapy. I'm understating my case.
I'm tempted, and yet I'm not going to broaden the notion of therapy to mean any kind of guidance and help from friends and family. When I say that everyone needs it, I'm referring to structured, formal psychotherapy. Everyone could benefit from it once in a while.
We are not as rational as we might believe or act. Passions can get the better of the best of us. I have yet to meet a completely healthy, adjusted neurosis-free person. I include myself. I have clearly needed therapy on several occasions, and I still reflect on insights, dreams, stories and events from my experiences as a client in therapy.
It appears that the public doesn't always understand what therapy is all about. Still today some people avoid therapy because it could cost them their jobs and reputations. The public seems to think that if you can't maintain the illusion of mental health, then you are not fit to belong to normal society. You become what the Gospel calls a "leper," referring not to a physical disease but to a condition of exclusion. You are ostracized because you are not perceived as conventionally normal.
Apparently there are two kinds of discourse about therapy: the public version that associates it with a Frankensteinian messing with a person's head, and the discourse of those who practice it or know it from experience, the version that sees its benefits and effectiveness.
Like all things humane and full of soul, in a mechanistic society people prefer pills and behavioral techniques -- and maybe a little electricity -- to talk. It's popular in some circles today to pooh-pooh therapy as mere yakking, branding it laughably simplistic compared to pharmacology and hardware. Yes, talk is simple and yet sometimes more difficult than making a pill.
If you are in good professional hands, therapy can help you get through your depression and grief, find work that you love, work out those marital strains and discover the fascinating universe of your soul.
I know, some people don't like the soul word. But let me remind you that it has been around for thousands of years and has been explored with remarkable intelligence. In fact, the word "psychotherapy" comes from two key terms that Plato and other philosophers studied closely: psyche meaning soul, and theraps meaning attendant or servant. The word "psychotherapy" means literally "care of the soul."
In some training programs, students of therapy have to go through an intense course of therapy themselves. It helps them spot their main complexes and work through their past so they don't act out their own issues at the expense of their clients. I think this is a model that could spread to other professions and jobs; indeed, maybe all of them.
I'd like to see doctors spend some time in therapy before practicing medicine. The same goes for lawyers, media personalities, business leaders and, of course, politicians. Imagine if our leaders had sorted out the main issues that make them neurotic on the job.
Many of our social problems are not as literal as the participants and media coverage would have us believe. Many of our leaders are clearly banging at windmills of their own when they make public decisions. We all act out our anxieties and past conflicts in our current affairs. But we have almost no opportunity for reflection.
Now I'll allow some softening of the word therapy. Yes, it can take place in probing conversations among friends and in the quiet whisperings of intimate partners. Teachers and spiritual leaders can practice it and all of us can help each other cope. In a way we are all therapists and we're all patients. But I still think that formal therapy would be good for everyone.