Why go for casual or directionless therapy?

First of all I’m not anti-therapy, blah blah etc offer void in Tennessee

I’ve read people talk about going to therapy not to really treat any particular problem or with any direction or goal in mind, just to talk basically. One person related talking about a favorite TV show with their therapist, basically chit chat.

I know the therapist is just providing a service, but what does this kind of casual conversation offer that say chatting with people at a bar wouldn’t?

Imagine you have a chronic mental health issue. You will be dealing with it for some time. You take some medication, but it just reduces the intensity of the symptoms. They still disrupt your life, making it hard for you to be productive at work, interact with people, or deal with stress. If you’ve dealt with this problem for some time, maybe it’s stunted your development so that your coping strategies are maladaptive. Maybe you have poor communication skills, you’re mistrustful, anxious, and/or overly cynical and self-defeating.

You could go into short-term therapy to accomplish a discrete goal, like finding employment or making friends. But what if you have a job and you have friends, but you’re still miserable with your life. What do you do?

Supportive therapy is useful for people in this situation. It’s both a short-term and long-term process.

Some people don’t go to bars or chit-chat about personal things. Some people don’t want to bore others with crazy complaints, or alienate them with even crazier confessions. Few people know what to say when someone is struggling with something they’ve never dealt with before and can’t even imagine. A therapist may not be able to empathize all the time, but at least they’ve been exposed to stuff that would equip them with the “right” words. A therapist knows how to help someone who’s alexithymic, for instance. Joe Blow on the street doesn’t know what the hell that is, and it’s unfair to expect him to be able to help someone who has this difficulty.

A lot of people who go to therapy will start off talking about general chit chat at first to get comfortable before they start talking about the deeper issues they’re really there to discuss.

An issue with trying to talk to people in bars or talking to friends: A lot of people out there don’t really listen. When they’re not talking, they’re really just waiting for their next turn to talk. At least with a therapist you’re actually getting someone who is listening to you and has their attention on you.

What may seem “directionless” to you may not be so for the person in therapy.

I’ve struggled with anxiety, panic, and OCD for years. If I’m in crisis, my therapy deals with that crisis. However, I still touch base with my therapist occasionally when I’m not having immediate issues.

Why? Well, sometimes my therapist can identify that I’m heading for a crisis when I don’t realize it myself. She helps me avoid falling into the same patterns I did before. It’s odd how my mind can’t recognize the warning signs that I’m about to have another anxiety episode even though it’s all very recognizable in hindsight. My therapist, however, can see it coming a mile away.

And sometimes I just want to double check that I’m still on track and my coping strategies are still working. Meds and the CBT techniques I’ve learned keep me pretty competent, but I don’t ever want to fall off a cliff again like I did years ago in my last episode, so it helps to get a professional opinion that I’m doing the right things or advice to fix something I’m not doing right.

(my bold)

Um, this certainly sounds like a “particular problem”. The OP specifically asked about those seeking therapy despite any apparent issues.

To answer the OP; sometimes just being able to talk to someone-and have someone listen-is therapy.

I can think of a few reasons.

The lack of fear is the biggest difference for me. I see a therapist every other week. I started going to address a specific problem several years ago and I continued going after that problem was gone just because I found it nice to have someone who I can direct a stream of consciousness at without fear of judgement or rejection or gossip.

There’s also consistency. With few exceptions, my therapist is always there at the same time and place, every other week. She won’t bail on me because she has to work late or because she doesn’t feel like leaving the house that day or because she just started a new relationship and doesn’t have time to listen to me. She takes a two week vacation twice a year, but beyond that, she is one of the most reliable and trustworthy fixtures in my life.

It’s also very often hard to find a good therapist, and the best ones are usually booked up. A few years ago when I was first looking, I actually ended up seeing four or five different counselors/therapists before I finally found someone I liked and felt comfortable talking to. And each time I switched it was this process of making calls to see if they’re accepting new clients and then when I finally found someone who wasn’t completely full, the first appointment was usually at least a month out. This is important if you have recurring issues. After my original reason for counseling had been “resolved” I stopped going. But then something else came up a few months later and I tried to schedule another appointment and it took me almost three months to get back in to see her. After that, I just decided to keep a standing appointment, “just in case,” and for the times I don’t have any actual direction or goal in mind, I just talk about what’s going on in my life and she often provides what I feel is valuable insight from the standpoint of an impartial observer.

That bring me to my fourth reason. For me, it’s really cheap. My therapist charges (I think) $250 per hour. My insurance covers all but $15 of that. Cheaper than going to a bar twice a month…

That’s not a particular problem. It’s just life for those of us who have a mental disorder. People abandon you when you don’t act normal enough for them.

By your logic, you’d be dealing with a particular problem, too–your disability.

People don’t go to therapists if they don’t have a problem. So the question obviously must mean people who have a problem but have sessions where they don’t really deal with it.

Um, yeppers. You nailed it.

Well, everyone always has some problems, and more meaningfully, they have the so-called “baggage” of their past. Not always, however, is everyone in crisis. (I’m using these terms in the context of therapy.)

I’ve gone to therapists during crises: some situational and I need someone to help me get at the matter; some built up over time that block me from proceeding as I want to.

The therapy in-between those crises has been very useful therapy for me. It’s when you deal with those problems that are sort of carried along and can’t be brought to the forefront during crisis therapy or can’t be addressed more deeply.

Right but even therapy for “non-crisis” issues are still issues nonetheless. Issues specific to that person and their life. I believe the OP was asking about those who seemingly seek out therapy when they are dealing with no specific issues but rather just want to unload on an objective ear.

I don’t believe there are such people. And I doubt the OP knows them either, unless he is the fly in the wall in a therapist’s office.

People grow attached to their therapists. Maybe–if these mythical people exist–they started off having a particular issue/crisis and the therapist saw them through it successfully. And subsequently they check-in with the therapist periodically because they simply enjoy interacting with that person and want to keep them in their back pocket lest troubles return.

I work with a therapist. Occasionally I have a Very Special Session, where I come to her with problems and we deal with specific issues. But frequently, if you just happened to poke your head through the window, you’d see us chitchatting about silly stuff. Am I wasting time? Maybe…but then again I never know what kind of session I’m going to have until I get there. And the silly stuff is important to maintaining a strong relationship…so that when shit does hit the fan, I don’t have to turn to a stranger, someone who doesn’t know my personality and what makes me smile. Familiarity is a godsend in crisis.