You know what makes me feel so peaceful and serene? A good hike in the backcountry. The further from civilization the better. This is so often where I go to recharge. I like to stand in places where very few people have ever stood, inhale the pine scent of the forrest, and live the simple life that carrying all of your possessions on your back provides.
Backpacking is healing for me. Even though Backpacking provides me with so much healing, do you know what backpacking isn’t? Backpacking isn’t therapy. Therapy is therapy.
Okay guys…I am not just a therapist. I am also a consumer of therapy. Like, life time-life long. When I move locations the first thing a search for is a therapist who is a good fit for me.My therapist and I meet weekly and she has helped me heal past trauma, process tough life events, and live a fuller life. Even though the wilderness is a relief for my soul it could never do this.
I think sometimes we have a misconception about what therapy is. This misconception is that therapy is supposed to make us feel better and happier. When we look at it from this view then we easily start substituting other things that make us feel the same way.
Reading is my therapy.
The Gym is my therapy.
Yoga is my therapy.
Traveling is my therapy.
Gardening is my therapy.
Polka Dancing is my therapy.
And we just have to stop. Those things might be great relaxation and might even help you feel a bit of healing from the tough stuff life constantly hammers you with.
They are not therapy.
You see? Therapy is a process.
Sometimes it doesn’t make you feel better or happy. Processing trauma with my therapist never makes me “feel better” in the moment, in fact thats why I sometimes use reading/exercising/hiking as a way to avoid processing trauma. Avoidance is no way to live life, and in my counseling and personal experience it is often a better way to create more struggle. Just because talking about trauma is uncomfortable, doesn’t mean we should avoid it.
What is therapy then?
If backpacking isn’t therapy. Then what is therapy? The answer is, therapy is different depending on what you are struggling with and what your therapist specializes in. I work in Tyler, Texas specifically with people who struggle with Eating Disorders, disordered eating, and body image junk (hello! lots of people!).
I use evidence based approaches (this is therapist lingo for…tested by smart people and shown to work) such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) to help people work through issues related to Eating Disorders. These are highly specialized and researched methods of therapy that are the best practice for Eating Disorders.
Have I bored you yet?
I say all of that to show you that therapy is specialized and something we receive hours and hours of training in. This training doesn’t stop at getting a Psychology degree, or even a graduate degree. Most counselors are life long learners. We want to stay current on what research is showing us about treating different disorders and struggles people come to us with. Some therapists spend thousands of dollars a year to be trained in approaches like DBT, EMDR, and other various treatment approaches.
That training and experience all add up to be able to help you (and me!) through the struggles of life.
Your gym is probably awesome and I know that my backpacking trips are too, but there is no way they can provide for you what therapy can. This doesn’t mean they can’t provide something beneficial, they just can’t be therapy!