The Transformative Power of Therapy

from the authors
Feb. 16, 2021
Haley Nahman is a culture writer based in Brooklyn, former features director of Man Repeller, for some just @halemur, and those who subscribed to her newsletters - a person whose advice they seek in times of need.

People start blogs, vlogs, podcasts, but what exactly one does when writing a newsletter, you may ask. There it is: Maybe Baby is a weekly long-form newsletter about hard-to-describe feelings. "It arrives in your inbox every Sunday morning and is best consumed while physically comfortable. My goal is to make you feel the way you do after a long talk with a friend. Or even just slightly less anxious or confused about the alien hellscape that is the modern world," the author explains.
Maybe Baby includes diary-like essays and observations, cultural commentary and critique, and thoughtful (and sometimes weird) recommendations. In addition to the weekly newsletter, paying subscribers to get access to Dear Baby, a five-part advice column, and the Maybe Baby podcast (which is a mixed bag of interviews, unfiltered thoughts, and audio readings).

Very often Nahman finds herself answering readers' questions very, very personally - for example, in the following lines you will find the full story on how she started going to therapy, why is it so important to her, and, most importantly, why every one of us can benefit from therapy sessions.

Reader's question: How did you decide that therapy was the right choice for you? Abruptly returning home to California has forced me to reflect on my life here before I left for school, and I find myself spiraling into self-loathing as I realize that I never really solved my internal problems. I’m thinking of talking to someone, as I find myself too deep in myself that the reassurance from my close ones only washes over.

Haley Nahman's answer: I still remember telling my mom I was going to try therapy when I was 24. She said, "You don’t need therapy. You’re already thinking all the right things! You just need to think less." My mom is an emotionally attuned and thoughtful person, so it’s surprising to me that she’s wary of therapy. But I think her reaction is a common one and speaks to why a lot of people never seek out counseling. They assume it’s for someone else — someone more fucked up or with a harder life, or less capable of coping independently. But for me, going to therapy isn’t about the severity of my problems or my ability to solve them; it’s an opportunity to see things differently, which to me is one of the most important aspects of being alive. For that reason, I think therapy is a huge privilege, and anyone who has the resources to go is lucky.

I once took a class in San Francisco on journaling, very random, and I never forgot something the professor said about taking notes: that it wasn’t about the individual things you wrote down, necessarily, but about the patterns that emerged over time. This describes my experience with therapy almost exactly. Not only does verbalizing your thoughts often reveal something about them, but doing it repeatedly over time often reveals something about who you are. It can make you realize the extent to which you’ve been ruminating on what is essentially one root problem, or help you appreciate the seriousness of something you might deem inconsequential in the day-to-day. A good therapist will help you navigate that process in surprising and useful ways, but I’ve even made headway with bad ones because the simple act of giving things air is useful on its own.
For an overthinker like me, therapy has also been humbling. Sometimes I’ll be convinced I’ve thought of every possible angle, and then my therapist will offer a completely different way of looking at it that blows my mind, or she’ll make a connection I’d have never thought to make. Some of those moments have genuinely changed me, and I’m so grateful for them. But even less monumental sessions can be restorative. It’s so unusual to have a private relationship with someone whose only focus is to help you, who will accept you even after you say the horrible thing you’ve never said out loud before. And if you’re someone who tends to cut yourself off, or apologize a lot, or overextend yourself for other people, it’s an opportunity to be totally unselfconsciously self-involved. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy, but there’s a sense of safety inherent in the relationship. You’re free to fuck up and be the messiest version of yourself because that’s the point.
For a first-time therapy-goer, there are definitely some hurdles to clear — finding someone whose style works for you, getting comfortable with being vulnerable, letting go of trying to be liked — and I don’t think everyone needs therapy all the time. I go through phases myself. But I do think most people could benefit from some amount of it. We all have shit to work out, and I believe we’d be better to each other if we had the time and resources, and willingness to do it.

Thoughts? Do you go to therapy? What’s something helpful you’ve learned? We’d love to hear…

Sources: Maybe Baby, Cup of Jo
Photo: Instagram/@halemur