Therapy as Urgent Care

Therapy as Urgent Care

There’s a prevailing notion in society today that everyone should be in therapy —and on a fundamental level, I agree that therapy is an extremely valuable tool. However, the narrative that therapy is the end-all, be-all, lifelong weekly habit to solving emotional well-being doesn’t feel quite right. Throughout my life I’ve been a guilty, yo-yo therapy attendee; I’ve gone maybe a half dozen times in my life for a couple weeks or months when I’ve been really struggling, and quit once I started wanting the extra hour in my schedule back.

Earlier this year, I decided to listen to the zeitgeist, and give therapy a serious, big girl effort, with the intent of staying long-term. I found a therapist I really liked, on my health insurance (I used SonderMind and my sessions were $25 a pop, which is amazing). But after a few months, I was unsure of what I wanted to speak with her about, and the main issue I needed help with was resolved. Eventually, with a guilty conscious, I decided to end therapy. I sheepishly entered our session with my break up speech prepared – it’s not you it’s me – you deserve better – you’re going to find someone that really appreciates you one day. Not so surprisingly in hindsight, she was very cool about it, and introduced a whole new idea – therapy as urgent care. Which I profoundly love.

So, let’s kill the metaphor.

Primary Care

There are no one-size-fits-all solutions to happiness and satisfaction (anyone that tells you otherwise is trying to sell you leggings or Tupperware). But there are some key, universal human truths.

Deep Relationships

For all its benefits, therapy always has felt fundamentally transactional. I am so grateful to have multi-faceted and deep connections with a wide group of friends and family. We’re fundamentally social creatures, and each person I treasure brings a different energy to my life: silliness, deep intellectual connections, pop culture, and those magical people who give you a spark and make you into the best version of yourself. No one person can be all these things, so a varied network of important relationships is essential.

Wisdom from Others

Losing debates to my smart friends, watching impactful films and shows, digging into podcasts, and reading prophetic works and wisdom gathered from lifetimes of lived experiences have opened my mind so many times, I sometimes wonder how many different versions of me have existed in my few decades.

Connection to Community

Having grown up in a vibrant church community, I miss having a values-aligned, intergenerational touchpoint. But what if you don't subscribe to religious dogma? Alternative communities do exist, like community organizing groups or secular spaces for deep connections. I’m still searching here (after a sermon from a queer atheist at my local Unitarian Universalist church, I’m very interested) and showing up at various groups, with the goal of committing and going all in somewhere in the fall.

Intentional Kindness

In the last couple months, I’ve read four books on American Buddhism. As such, I’ve been spending a lot of time lying in bed and cringing of all the times I’ve ever been too harsh, jumped to judgment, didn’t listen to someone else, or just generally been suboptimal. I’m generally quick witted and ready with a joke, but I realize much of my sense of humor comes from an era of emulating harsh, self-deprecating humor that was particularly cool growing up. I sometimes hear myself being much harsher than I intend in my humor, and I want this next phase in my life to still be witty and humorous, but to also be intentionally more kind. I’m hopeful that a conscious shift will bring positive change, but I’m still figuring this out.

Specialist Care

Sometimes it takes a specialized form of care to revitalize your sense of wonder and excitement.

Adventure, Novelty, and Frivolity

I have an internal, non-ending debate with myself: that life is serious and things matter, and simultaneously that we are dust and none of this matters. That I’m arguing into the ether, that I’m too small, that I’ll never make a real difference. So, in equal balance, let’s get weird, let’s try new things, let’s shake up the routine. Try out roller derby and cover myself in bruises, stumble my way through a West Coast Swing dance (with my fabulously talented spouse who drags me along), traveling to new places, blasting Hop Along in the car, playing a ridiculous board game with friends and screaming at each other over nothing. These beautiful, silly, gold flakes of life. My newest adventure, I bought a bright red bass guitar. Wish me luck.

Meaningful Work

Purposeful work is a cornerstone of my well-being. We spend thousands of hours at work a year, and I want them to be for something valuable. It’s a vital part of my equation for happiness.

Urgent Care

The Hard, The Bad, and The Ugly

Sometimes, life hits us too hard, for too long, and we start to wear at the bounds of our relationships. This is where therapy as 'urgent care' comes in. It's perfectly acceptable, and even wise, to seek therapy to develop coping skills for a particularly rough phase in our lives, feel better, and then move on. Therapy can be a salve providing immediate relief without becoming a permanent part of your life. Just… don’t ghost your therapist when you decide you’re done. They’re people too.

We’re always standing on the edge of a new phase in life, whether we know it or not. I’m acutely aware that my current sense of self is temporary. By engaging in the work of a fulfilling life, and some sporadic therapy, hopefully I’ll be better prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.