Often I hear the phrases or see on social media:
“Going to the gym is my therapy”
“Had some therapy with my friend over coffee”
“Spotify knows what music therapy I need today”
“Did some art therapy today” (with a picture of art)
I sit here and think...well did you have a physical therapist, music therapist or art therapist present?
Did you have an agreed treatment plan?
This is not therapy, these are coping skills, and healthy ones at that.
Yes, they create connection, and you may experience catharsis, tap into an emotional response, and meet psychosocial needs. Certainly you can feel therapeutic effects through physical fitness, music and art, but that is not therapy.
It got me thinking “what does therapy mean?”
By definition according to Merriam Webster, 2019
Therapy - Noun
Medical treatment of impairment, injury, disease, or disorder. Treatment of a disorder or injury of the body or mind. Remedial treatment of mental or bodily disorder. An agency (as treatment) designed or serving to bring about rehabilitation or social adjustment.
I believe by saying these phrases (calling our hobbies or outlets therapy) it can cause more harm to ourselves. It supports that going to the gym, as an example, is my therapy, and I don’t need a therapist or I don’t need to go to therapy. What tends to happen is that by believing these things you are doing yourself a disservice from processing what you really need to work through. And this may only mask over what you really need to process to live a more fulfilling life.
By saying these phrases it is perpetuating a problem with what therapy really is and the stigma to going to a therapist. You deserve to take care of you, otherwise it may also seep out to other professionals who are not qualified to respond to what you really need. These people are not qualified therapists and are placed in uncomfortable situations that is out of their scope of practice and may cause more distress in their own lives too.
The role of a therapist must follow ethical standards and scope of practice, PHI and HIPPA laws. They are there to guide you through a process that unveils layers that have brought pain into your life, help you organize your thoughts, and in a safe environment to release your authentic self and be honest with yourself about what is really going on.
The gym is not your therapy.
Venting to a friend is not therapy.
Listening to music is not music therapy.
Making art is not art therapy.