Why would anyone want to undertake psychotherapy? It’s expensive! It’s kind of embarrassing! Do we want our friends to think we are crazy??!! We don’t even know if it works! Well, I want to go on record saying that it does work. If you find a well-trained and competent psychotherapist he or she can be extraordinarily helpful.
How do we know when we need it? In the movies it is often portrayed as a last resort for someone who has endured terrible tragedy or is on a path to self-destruction. That is certainly the case for some people. But just as frequently my clients are individuals who are functioning well enough but know that they are limited in what they can do. Unresolved issues from their past are taking up mental and emotional energy and keeping unproductive behavior patterns alive. Once they have processed those issues they discover a new freedom to accomplish goals that they want to achieve. Their relationships become deeper and more loving. They are far better able to manage destructive feelings or even actions that might be harmful to themselves or someone else. It does not mean that their lives are free of challenges but they feel far more capable of managing them in productive ways.
When it comes to parenting it’s important to remember that whatever we do to resolve our own issues and whatever freedom we achieve will inevitably pass on to our children for the better. Whatever issues we don’t resolve will also pass on to our children in uncanny ways. It gives a whole new meaning to that verse in the Bible that says that the iniquity of the fathers will be visited upon the children and upon the children’s children unto the third and to the fourth generation. (Exodus 34:7) It’s hard to say how this happens but I know that it does. I have seen issues played out again and again through generations until someone makes the decision to address them openly and acknowledge the effects.
As I describe in my book Family Entanglement https://www.createspace.com/4008162 family members are connected to each other in mysterious ways. Children know things about their parents that have never been spoken or addressed out loud. They feel what their parents feel and when parents carry painful emotional baggage, the children will also be burdened by it. Bob and I made the decision early in our marriage that we didn’t want our children to carry some of the emotional burdens that we felt. Next week I’ll share some of the events that propelled both of us into therapy.
Ellen Toronto is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Spring, Texas and has been practicing since 1980. In 2017, she was elected a Fellow in Psychoanalysis by the American Psychological Association. In 2016, Dr. Toronto's practice was recognized as one of the top Ann Arbor Psychology practices. She received her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Michigan. Dr. Toronto is married to Robert Toronto, Ph.D., and together they have four sons and eleven grandchildren.