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What Is Therapy?

It may be the golden age of television, but the way that therapy is presented on TV, in movies, and in other media is often misleading. Despite how counseling is presented, your therapist is unlikely to fall in love with you, drive you to tears every time you visit the office, or hold your hand and tell you to only think happy thoughts.

Therapy is evidence-based treatment to help people who are struggling with mood, cognitive, and behavioral disorders. I’m Christine Tomasello, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), and in this blog, I’m going to talk through what therapy is and what it isn’t.

It’s important that people understand what to expect when they choose to work with a therapist, so if you have any questions or want to learn more, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’ll be happy to help.

Therapy Is a Place to Process Your Feelings

When your emotions feel like they’re in the driver’s seat or they overwhelm your sense of control in your day-to-day life, it may be time to talk to someone. Therapy is all about accepting, understanding, processing, learning from, and managing your emotions. Take a minute to think through each of these things. In therapy you accept your emotions as valid and real. You learn to understand what your feelings are and how they impact you. You develop the ability to process these emotions in healthy ways, so you can learn the messages your feelings are trying to send. Then, you begin to manage your emotions and resume control of your life.

Therapy Isn’t a Place to Just Vent

At times, people hear the above description and think that therapy is just about venting their emotions. There is an element of that, but therapy is also about finding solutions and learning new coping skills. We may talk about what you’re feeling, but we’ll also talk about how those emotions effect you and how you can better manage emotions in the future.

Therapy Is a Place to Learn New Tools and Coping Skills

We all struggle at times to feel like our most authentic selves or to work through a difficult situation. We can have a tough time navigating our relationships or communicating effectively. Therapy is a great place to learn new skills that allow you to cope with difficult emotions or experiences and live a more satisfying life.

Therapy Isn’t a Place Where Someone Else Will Fix You

Therapists are helping professionals. We care about people and what them to live better, safer, more fulfilling lives. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean we have a magic wand that “fixes” your life. Therapy is work that you do cooperatively with your counselor. It involves learning, growing, and changing, which can be a confronting experience, but if you’re willing to put in the work, it can also be rewarding.

Therapy Is a Place to be Heard, Seen & Understood

Many people spend much of their lives feeling misunderstood. As though no one can understand the things they’ve seen and the emotions they’re experiencing. Therapy is a place where you can be listened to and feel understood and validated.

Therapy Isn’t a Place Where You’ll Be Told What You Have to Do

While your therapist will serve as a sounding board for ideas and offer tools and suggestions to help you through difficult situations, they will not tell you what to do. Instead, when you feel stuck, blocked, or like you don’t know what you can do, working with a therapist helps you to find options, open new doors, and make progress.

Think you'd benefit from therapy?

If you’re interested in beginning therapy, I hope you’ll get in touch with me at my San Diego practice, Beachside Counseling. You can start the process whenever you’re ready by filling out my online scheduling request, calling (858) 863-8695, or emailing me at

Image from Canva.


About the Author

Christine Tomasello is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Founder of Beachside Counseling in San Diego, CA, where she helps clients work through grief and loss, major life changes, and challenging relationship patterns. Christine identifies as a helper, healer, and highly sensitive person (HSP), and specializes in working with other therapists, helpers, healers, and HSPs.


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