As I’ve mentioned, I’ve spent some extensive time in therapy. In terms of interactions I’ve had, I’d say I interact with a therapist about as frequently as I interact with the guy who sells me my weekly ice cream dinner, so it’s definitely a relationship. If you’ve never been to therapy (we can’t be friends), you may wonder what goes on in there, after the door is closed and the “In Session” light clicks on. I go to therapy and I still wonder what other people do in there. I have the feeling that I’m doing therapy wrong, but that seems fairly predictable at this point.
Before ever attending a therapy session, I had a pretty clear concept of what therapy looked like in my mind. My concept was formed by my relationships with two people: the first was Dr. Jason Seaver, the affable psychiatrist father on Growing Pains, and the second was my mother, a therapist.
Dr. Seaver practiced psychiatry out of his home office, which looked to be about the size of the biggest room in my parents’ relatively sizeable house. I was very concerned about the logistics of this, as I was wont to be. Because I knew that a schizophrenic relative in my family had gone off her medication and had become violent with her husband and children, I was very worried that a patient of Dr. Seaver’s would do something similar. I awaited the episode when a sitcom version of a mentally ill person (hair wild, lipstick grotesquely covering half of her face, female) would break down the Seavers’ door and try to stab Mrs. Seaver, while Kirk Cameron worked up some hijinks to distract the intruder and save the day. But, the show never traveled down that road, which was a great disappointment to me. Not unlike the entire future of Kirk Cameron.
Growing Pains also once did a bit wherein the youngest daughter, Chrissy, is given an assignment to write about what her father does for a living. She proudly announces that she told her whole class that her dad makes women come over to their house, lie down on a couch, and cry. I thought this was hilarious, but I also thought she had accurately described all therapy. To my understanding, therapy was lying on a couch and crying.
An equally formative experience had to do with observing my mother in her workplace. Her version of having it all included taking me to work with her after school when she no longer had patients, so we could spend time together while she worked. I took naps on the two chairs in her office, which I pushed up against each other to form a make-shift bed. This is where her patients must lie down, I figured. I wondered if they pushed the chairs together or if my mom did, but settled on the image that they pushed the chairs together as a team. My mom wouldn’t want to patronize the patient by doing it herself, nor would she want to appear unwelcoming. It never occurred to me that the patient might just sit in one chair.