While the initial reason for reaching out to a therapist was for support for me and my family during a transition, the personal work I did throughout that process revealed key insights about myself. Insights that not only changed how I parented, but transformed how I led and contributed at work.
Therapy has such a bad “stigma” in our country. Employees don’t take advantage of Employee Assistance Programs because they’re afraid their employer will “find out” (even though any assistance provided is completely confidential). If people seek out therapy, they don’t tell anyone, for fear that people will think they’re crazy. We need to change those stigmas. Working with a good therapist can help your career, not hurt it. In fact, I would argue that anyone who leads others should spend some time in therapy.
- How we lead and contribute at work is based on the experiences we’ve had in life. An experience doesn’t have to mean a “trauma”. Even those with perfect childhoods (although I have yet to meet someone that has had one…) could benefit from seeing a different perspective. For example, if you grew up in the “Leave it to Beaver” household, maybe you lead with “optimism”. That is great, except for when you have a direct report that is going through a horrible experience and doesn’t need to be told to “think positive”, but rather just needs to be heard. Talking through different situations in the present day, coupled with the work of identifying key influences from your past, can provide profound insight into your leadership style and how you might need to adapt it for different situations.
- It can help you uncover what you really want in life. Some people know exactly what they want. Others think they know what they want. Still others know what others think they should want. And yet others wander aimlessly waiting for their sense of purpose to fall into their laps. No matter what category you fall into, talking through future possibilities with a therapist can help bring some clarity. Through your personal work, you may uncover a passion, new hobby, or reaffirmation that you’re headed in the right (or wrong) direction.
- It can relieve stress. Whether or not you feel stressed, talking through things is a stress-reliever. That is why we spend so much time talking through things with our friends. You might as well talk through things with a trained professional that is gifted in listening and knowing when to interject.
- It can help you heal. While I mentioned earlier that you don’t need a traumatic experience to go to therapy, chances are that at some time or another in your life you were hurt by something. Even if that isn’t your main motivation for going to therapy, or you may not even remember it on the surface, it’s likely the memory will make an appearance in the work that you’re doing during therapy. This is your opportunity to heal from it.
- It is often more accessible and less expensive than an Executive Coach. So if, after reading all the other reasons, you’re still not convinced that therapy can help you in your career, let’s talk about its practicality. Therapists are all over the place. There is most likely a good one near your home or work. Additionally, they may be less expensive than an Executive Coach—whose target audience is the more senior levels of leadership who have more money (thus driving up the price point).
Once you’ve made the decision to try a few therapy sessions, here are some things you might want to consider:
- Call your Employee Assistance Program first to see what free resources you have available. Oftentimes, a few free therapy sessions are included in that benefit.
- Call your insurance provider to see what is included in your healthcare coverage. Therapy sessions may or may not be considered. Your provider will also have a list (complete with ratings) of providers in your area.
- Commit to investing the time and energy into the experience. You only get out of it what you put into it. If you don’t put forth the effort, you’re not paying for therapy, you’re paying for rest time sitting on a fancy couch.
- Determine your “end-goal” and criteria. Therapy results can be graphed on a bell curve. Little happens at the beginning as you and your therapist are building a relationship of trust; then you get on a role—you start to strike goal and get a string of key insights. Towards the end, you start to lose steam. therapy could go on forever if you wanted it to. Once you start to see diminishing returns, thank your therapist for the work you’ve done together, and take a break. You can decide if it’s temporary or permanent. But don’t let inertia waste your time and money.
If you can afford an Executive Coach, go for it (and reach out to me if you would like some recommendations). They can be extremely helpful for your personal and career growth. But don’t let the negative stigma society places on therapy shy you away from using a therapist to help your career….and your family.
Happy soul searching!