Why Every Good Writer Should Be in Therapy

Mar 31, 2010

Recently I went to see a counselor, the reasons for which are inconsequential and entirely anti-climactic. I like to do health-checks on the state of my spirit and mind as much as I’m committed to maintaining a healthy body.

As I sat there speaking with this very wise woman, I kept thinking about the vast benefits of spending a little time with a professional counselor (my counselor friend Lucille is applauding right now). As a writer, I spend a lot of time alone, delving into the deep and dark places of my messy soul and complicated scenarios. It can get a little creepy. At the same time, the better I unravel myself, the better I’m able to both communicate and connect with my reader. Which is why I believe every good writer should be in therapy.

Okay, before you call me crazy, I’m fully aware of the fact that this is an over-generalized, blanket statement. But hear me out. There is a reason why I believe your writing–my writing–could benefit from time in someone’s leather chair. Actually, many reasons. Here are a few:

  1. To understand yourself more fully than you think you do
  2. To identify inaccuracies in your self-perception
  3. To eliminate any “blocks” to artistic beauty and creativity
  4. To more deeply understand, empathize, and connect with your reader
  5. To better understand complex issues like redemption, forgiveness, attachments, boundaries, and relationships, all of which can be the framework for an article, non-fiction book, or novel.
  6. To develop complex, intriguing and life-like characters. Without this, writers end up creating plastic characters who are probably much like the persona they portray. We like to make ourselves look better than we are, piecing ourselves together into something that is entirely uninspiring and about an inch deep. Characters like that don’t sell books, and they certainly don’t change readers’ lives.

Maybe counseling isn’t for you. I had one bad counseling experience that almost made me toss the entire concept (and her fine leather couch) out the window. I get that. So what about a mentor or life coach? Both can accomplish similar results under a different title.

How about you? Has counseling (mentoring, coaching) helped you become a better writer or musician or lover or friend?

(pic courtesy of lotushead, stock.xchng)

12 Comments

  1. Megan DiMaria

    I agree, Michele. Also, for writers, counseling helps us feel "normal," well, as normal as a writer can be. I've found that I observe and pick apart what I see more than most non-writer-types. I sometimes put too much thought into people's motivations, which is important when creating characters, but in real life sometimes the motivation is nothing deeper than a headache, a bit of short-sightedness, or someone just being a jerk. My creative mind can get away with itself and construct an entire scenario that may not resemble reality. But that's a comment for another day! 🙂

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Me, too! It's the creative mind that fuels our complex stories. But it can get me into trouble sometimes. A counselor/mentor/coach helps me to see the difference. I love me some balanced wisdom.

      Reply
  2. Sarah Beckman

    recently started in the leather chair too. life saving for anyone in ministry who has to repeatedly give of self and live transparently. Self awareness and self preservation I say! Here’s to those great wise women who love the Lord and help us love ourselves and keep on keeping on!

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      I agree. Life saving, with the right counselor/mentor/coach. Living transparently takes courageous exposure, something that can be dangerous if done from a place other than health and healing. As long as I continue to live a more "public" life as a writer/speaker/blogger, I think I'll always need to invite/pursue outside counsel. It's breathing life back into my soul. I'm glad it's doing the same for you, Sarah!

      Reply
  3. tonya

    Great post, Michele. I am looking for my counselor right now. Sometimes too much time alone doesn't pay off as one would think it should. 🙂 Getting a different perspective helps so much.

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Ha! True! Too much time alone, too much time to THINK, and I can implode. 🙂 Isn't it amazing how an hour or two of hearing a different perspective can change a month-long funk?

      Reply
  4. Denise Miller Holmes

    Surprised you do this, but I think it's wise. Too many people believe there is a social stigma against getting counseling, as if others will think they are complete losers who can't string a sentence together. This is such an old-fashioned paradigm. Counseling enriches life and adds a new dimension of understanding to the things we ALL go through. To me, arguing against counseling is like arguing against a college education. This is a good thing, Michele. I think it will make you a better writer and cause growth. Lucille isn't the only one applauding right now.

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Surprised? I've done this several times, off and on over the past 20 years or so. As Sarah said, it's been life saving for me in many ways. I'm not sure why there is a social stigma, but I'm hopeful as I see evidence that it's changing. I like your analogy: "Arguing against counseling is like arguing against a college education." Great insight.

      Reply
  5. Name Jerolyn

    I’m not a writer, but my visits to the couch have been insightful to say the very least and usually very necessary.

    Reply
  6. Jan Parrish

    Forget just writers, I think everyone could benefit from a counselor or mentor. Too many people keep too much bottled up. It's a human time bomb, one that will explode at the worst possible moment, taking casualties. IMHO. Great Post MC. 🙂

    Reply
    • Michele Cushatt

      Thanks, Jan. I agree … it isn't just for writers. I wonder how many time bombs could be easily diffused by some coaching/counseling?

      Reply

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