(Published in BaltimoreOutloud, 2/2/2018)

As the nation’s, indeed the world’s, attention has been on mental health, I want to focus on just what therapy/counseling is. I often hear people say: “I haven’t done this before; how does it go?” We do not ask this question if we have a toothache and have to go to the dentist, do we?

So the roots of this doubt, ambiguity and maybe even curiosity go back millennia when “being crazy” was seen as different from physical health and consequently, “those” people were subjected to all kinds of torture. Thankfully, in the 21st century, there is a greater understanding and acceptance of the parity and the connection between the mind and the body though there is still some stigma and misinformation that remain. This progress is, regrettably, much less in some places in the world.

With the 30-plus years of providing therapy to individuals, couples, and families, I am still awed by what I call the “magic of psychotherapy.” Here it would be helpful to include this quote from psychologist Linda Sapadin (

“The work of a psychotherapist … is a conglomeration. It’s the work of a detective (who is searching for clues to understand what’s happened), a biologist (who understands how mind and body function), a social scientist (who appreciates how the social situation affects the individual), an educator (who teaches people what they need to know), and an artist (who creates beauty that touches the soul).”

This statement by Dr. Sapadin so eloquently and succinctly describes the many aspects of therapy and the art involved in connecting and communicating with another human being, and the end result of cognitive, affective and behavioral changes that take one to a more positive place.

There have been many times with a person in therapy, that I have wondered: Are we making progress here? Is the person stuck in a rut from which they can’t escape? How do I help them to get unstuck? Then that person, either in the office or at some unpredictable place and time, connects the dots and voila! That “aha” moment arrives. This is not always a fun process; none of us likes confronting our dark side or shortcomings, but then, no one is perfect and the key is to move towards constructive change, acceptance of one’s self and persevering in pursuing a healthy goal.

Trust, collaboration, and belief in one’s humanness are ingredients in this process between the therapist and the patient. If you had an unsatisfactory encounter with this experience, try someone else. We cannot ignore the personality traits and approaches involved here, plus the credentials and experience of the professional. We can resolve a lot of issues on our own, or by talking with friends and family, but the critical ingredients in the journey involve having a safe place with an objective therapist whose goal is your well-being.

So go ahead and give yourself the chance to explore your mind, to evolve, to deal with issues that may be obstacles in your relationships, your work goals, and your happiness, with a professional who can help you along the way.