Last week, Cristy Meiners wrote about turning 31 and deciding to go to counseling.  The following is (some of) what she discovered after 6 months of therapy.

I approached therapy the way I approached college classes (my major classes, anyway): I was on time, prepared, and ready to discuss the subject.  I probably took therapy even more seriously than I did English 241 because this time around I was paying for it.  And because my personal progression motivated me more than getting an A.

What I learned #1: My therapist is not my friend

The first thing I noticed was that I didn’t have to ask my therapist how her weekend was, how she was feeling, or where she bought her skirt.  This was a professional relationship.  So, when she-who-was-not-my-friend would ask me highly personal questions and my first instinct was to say, “Sorry, we don’t really know each other, nosy.  Can it,” I didn’t say that because I WANTED to be there.  I called her, for heaven’s sakes, and made us both get up at ridiculous hours in the morning just to do this.

I chose my therapist in part because she is also a single LDS woman in her 30s, and when I told her I felt displaced and disoriented, she empathized, with an “e.”  Her understanding allowed me to speak easily because I trusted our shared experience.

But it didn’t change the fact that I was the topic of every conversation.  Have you ever talked for a solid HOUR about yourself with someone who just kept asking questions?  I don’t think I had until I paid someone to listen to me.  It was the single most indulgent thing I’ve ever done.

What I learned #2: Nothing shocking

A friend of mine always says that for her, therapy is emotional dental floss: it’s an opportunity to clean out the emotional gunk that’s built up over the years.  I can’t say that was really my experience.  My therapy wasn’t so much a water-pick cleaning as it was an examination of my molars.

And here’s why: over all, I’m not sure that I learned anything shockingly revelatory about myself during therapy, but I did answer some good, hard questions about me.  Initially, I hoped to get advice from my therapist on how to find my way in my 30s.  But rather than advising me on the best course, my therapist asked me a series of questions and then used our hour together to help me dig into the answers I provided.  She asked me to consider what I want in my life—not what are my goals, but what kind of life do I want to lead?  A life with love?  With laughter and friendship?  What role do I assume in relationships?  Not just romantic relationships, but all of my relationships, those with friends, siblings, coworkers.  Finally, my therapist asked me the classic therapy favorite: what are my fears, really and truly?  My first reaction was that I didn’t have real fears (obviously a lie).  Ultimately I realized that what I cling to the very most is what I worry most about losing: my independence.  And I realized I am actively motivated by that fear, something I suspected, but had certainly never said out loud.

What I learned #3: When it’s over, it’s over

My last appointment was a few weeks ago, and I knew it was going to be our last.  It just felt…over.  When my therapist asked me what else I wanted to talk about, I responded, “Uh, I think that’s it.”  She smiled at me, gave me a big hug, and said, “I think so, too.”

Six months in therapy has not turned me from a stranger wandering a strange land to a native dweller, but Greenland doesn’t feel quite so alien anymore.   I still wake up surprised that I’m here, but I think that’s true for most of us, wherever we are.  The problem is we generally see ourselves as we were, or as future glorified versions of ourselves (wearing Zac Posen, of course), but rarely as we are.  Therapy helped me see the woman I am today, TODAY, and so far, she’s proving to be pretty decent company, even in Greenland.