Wednesday, September 11,

Many of you here know 616 member Leara and are familiar with her practice, I Light Art Therapy. She is a Registered Art Therapist and specializes in grief counseling and a lot more. You can read more about her practice here.

I had the pleasure of visiting her studio and learning more about what she does and it led to an interesting conversation about what “therapy” really is. We both hear people say “the gym is my therapy” or “fill in the blank is my therapy” but that really discounts what true therapy really is. Luckily, Leara was able to explain the difference to me of what real therapy is versus a coping mechanism.

So, to help me pass along this message to you, Leara wrote up a guest blog. Thanks Leara! And if you have any questions or need someone to talk to please let us know.

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.

Ultimately then....

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.

I’d like to add that while all of the coaches here are always willing to listen and help in any way we can, we are not therapists. So sometimes we need to point you in the direction of a trained professional. Just like we can help with your movement, but sometimes need to bring in the help of a physical therapist, we’d do the same for emotional or mental concerns.

If the gym is stress relief for you that is awesome. If it helps you cope with other problems that is great too. But remember that coping and temporarily relieving stress are not getting to the root cause of the problem. That’s where a therapist can help.

If you ever need help dealing with something we are all here to help, and sometimes that is us helping find the right person for you. Please don’t hesitate to ask for help!

Workout for Wednesday, September 11
For Time
Row 2,000m
At Min 1: 1 Power Clean (155/105)
At Min 2: 2 Power Cleans
At Min 3: 3 Power Cleans
*Continue adding 1 power clean at the top of every minute.

CrossFit 616