Is It Bad That Two Family Members Are In Therapy?

by Bill Brenner on November 28, 2011

If more than one member of the same family is in therapy, is that a sign that the family is seriously screwed up?

Mood music:

That’s the question we are asking ourselves these days. As the reader knows by now, I’ve been in therapy for OCD and related issues for seven years. Duncan sees a children’s therapist to help him work through his ADHD.

Is this family a basket case? In my opinion, it’s exactly the opposite.

I wouldn’t be enjoying the equilibrium I have today if not for the years of therapy.

Meanwhile, Duncan is learning a lot of helpful techniques to help him focus and control his anger.

I’m a staunch advocate of therapy as a tool for mental health. I think too many people are embarrassed when it’s suggested that therapy would do them some good. People who stay away from therapy because they feel it’s a mark of weakness have no idea what they are denying themselves. That makes me sad.

It’s a funny thing when I talk to people suffering from depression, addiction and other troubles of the mind. Folks seem more comfortable about the idea of pills than in seeing a therapist. After all, they’re just crazy “shrinks” in white coats  obsessed with how your childhood nightmares compromised your adult sex life, right?

I’ve been to many therapists in my life. I was sent to one at Children’s Hospital in Boston as a kid to talk through the emotions of being sick with Chron’s Disease all the time. That same therapist also tried to help me and my siblings process the bitter aftermath of our parents’ divorce in 1980.

As a teenager, I went to another therapist to discuss my brother’s death and my difficulty in getting along with my stepmother (a wonderful, wonderful woman who I love dearly, by the way. But as a kid I didn’t get along with her).

That guy was a piece of work. He had a thick French accent and wanted to know if I found my stepmother attractive. From the moment he asked that question, I was done with him, and spent the rest of the appointment being belligerent.

That put me off going to a therapist for a long time. I started going to one again in 2004, when I found I could no longer function in society without untangling the barbed wire in my head. But I hesitated for a couple years before pressing on.

The therapist I started going to specialized in dealing with disturbed children and teenagers. That was perfect, because in a lot of ways I was still a troubled kid.

She never told me what to do, never told me how I’m supposed to interpret my disorder against my past. She asked a lot of questions and had me do the work of sorting it out. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what a good therapist does. They ask questions to get your brain churning, dredging up experiences that sat at the back of the mind like mud on the ocean floor. That’s how you begin to deal with how you got to the point of dysfunction.

She moved to Florida a year in and I started going to a fellow who worked from his house. I would explain my binge eating habits to him, specifically how I would down $30 worth of McDonald’s between work and home.

“You should stock your car with healthy foods like fruit, so if you’re hungry you can eat those things instead,” he told me.

That was the end of that. He didn’t get it. When an addict craves the junk, the healthy food around you doesn’t stand a chance. The compulsion is specifically toward eating the junk. He should have understood. He didn’t. Game over, dumb ass.

The therapist I see now is a God-send. He was the first therapist to help me understand the science behind mental illness and the way an inbalance in brain chemistry can mess with your thought traffic. He also provided me with quite an education on how anti-depressants work. Yes, friends, there’s a science to it. Certain drugs are designed to shore up the brain chemicals that, when depleted, lead to bi-polar behavior. Other meds are specifically geared toward anxiety control. In my case, I needed the drug that best addressed obsessive-compulsive behavior. For me, that meant Prozac.

That’s not to say I blindly obey his every suggestion. He specializes in stress reduction and is big on yoga and eliminating coffee from the daily diet. Those are two deal breakers for me. Yoga bores the dickens out of me. If you’ve been following this blog all along, I need not explain the coffee part.

I also find it fun to push his buttons once in awhile. I’ll show up at his office with a huge cup of Starbucks. “Oh, I see you’ve brought drugs with you,” he’ll say.

Our relationship has settled into this banter back and forth, and it continues to serve its purpose. We go over everything happening in my life at that given moment, and if he suspects I’m thinking in unproductive ways or lying to myself, he calls me on it.

I’m better for it.

All that is the long way of saying I think it’s absolutely healthy if multiple members of one family are in therapy at the same time.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

lindyjayne November 28, 2011 at 2:52 am

Only 2 out of 4 Bill? Your family is fine. We’re at 4 out of 4. 🙂

Dan O'Leary November 28, 2011 at 7:30 pm

I’ve been experimenting with therapy recently for anxiety, depression and generally not feeling well in the head. I appreciate your experience with therapists. I don’t know if I’m with the right one. Julie is nice, just kind of a yes person. I think I need someone like you described. Straight from the hip. No BS. Please give me some links…
YBIC
Dan

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