As we continue this series on Accountability (see the previous posts here), we are defining accountability by what it is not. It is important to draw contrasts when we are trying to understand something. It helps us to see where we might have thought we had accountability but we actually do not.
Today, the contrast is accountability versus therapy (professional counseling).
For the purpose of this post and this series, when I speak of professional counseling or therapy, I mean the counseling given by a certified professional counselor or therapist. I do not mean the meetings with your pastor, school dean, best friend, or mother. Those are going to be classified as mentoring for reasons I will explain later.
Perhaps the best working definition I can think of for therapy (professional counseling) is:
Seeking out the professional services of a stranger specifically for the purpose of analyzing and overcoming an addiction or problem.
Looking at Professional Help
I have to confess, for a while, I stood strongly against modern psychology and any kind of therapy. During my first year of college I was sent to ‘therapy’ for anger management counseling, and had a terrible experience with a self-proclaimed therapist.
Two years earlier, she worked in admissions, and then realized she wanted to ‘help’ people. It was bad. I wrote off the entire field of anything ‘psych-‘ -pyschotherapy, psychology, psychiatry- as useless and unGodly.
I managed my journey of freedom with some intensive mentoring and discipleship (we’ll talk about those later), so I felt that no one needed therapy. Then, I started reading stories from you and other women in this battle who had sought out professional counsel.
More recently, I met a licensed therapist at one of my events. After talking extensively with her about how she approaches her clients, I realized that not all therapist are the ink blotting, medicine-pushing, make-you-feel-like-a-freak-of-nature-pet-project kind. In fact, from the sounds of it, most of them are not.
So, I relinquish my anti-professional help stance. In fact, I have even considered going myself! Later in this series, I will have a whole post dedicated to how to know when it might be helpful to seek out professional help, written with the help of some licensed therapists who have contacted me. For now, though, I want to point out some ‘weaknesses’ of therapy.
The Weaknesses of Therapy
1. It is a job.
This is a pro and con of therapy. You, quite literally, pay your therapist to get inside your head and figure out what is going on. He or she will likely keep you on track like none other because there is a job to be accomplished here. Unfortunately, this also means you are restricted by time and budget and the relationship is strictly professional.
2. Limited availability.
Therapy is consistent, but it is limited. I don’t know that therapists make a habit of handing out their phone numbers and making house calls. Like any other professional, they have schedules, office hours, appointments, etc. Yes, accountability partners have lives too, and you cannot expect anyone to be available at any given moment, but a key component that makes accountability work is availability.
3. One-sided connection.
There is no ‘doing life together’ with a therapist. In fact, counselors are trained to not share their lives with their clients. With a therapist, you do life and they help you do it better. It is not mutual.
4. No contact.
I am not talking physical contact here (there better not be any of that either). I simply mean that the therapist does not see you every day in ‘real life’ situations. The less someone knows you, the easier it is for you to lie to them. When the temptation is strong to appear normal, acceptable, or less weak, you are more likely to lie.
All in all, I am not against seeking professional help. I worked as a volunteer counselor for two years and know, first hand, how much it can help women just to have someone listen to them without judging them. Counseling can be very beneficial, but at the end of the day, it is not accountability.