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I have fabulous news for you to start your new year off on a happy note.

In the first two decades of the 21st century, psychotherapy has finally developed a fabulous reputation. In earlier times, therapy was kept secret and surrounded by a shameful aura. It was often a dirty secret to confide in a trained expert.

Themes were only discussed with trusted friends in private places. Currently, my friends and my granddaughters’ friends talk openly about who they see in therapy, and why they love it.

“It really helps,” they say.

Over time, I've collected gems that people say in the privacy of therapy, so after four decades of helping people transform misery to happiness, I can share the thoughts of my clients. I call these “the one-liner.” They are powerful one-sentence summaries of what feels important:

  1. “Every day is so new, it's like being a great adventurer. You don't know what to choose next." This client was recently divorced. She was feeling happy for the first time in five years.
  2. “Yesterday, I met my mother for lunch. She was a tidal wave of negativity." Adults continue to struggle with the long term after effects of growing up with a mom or dad who is angry, abusive, depressed or distant.
  3. “Real men don't let their emotions get carried away by their feelings.” Males still carry the burden of unrealistic expectations to remain strong, manly, logical and powerful, despite the pressure of life. However, “real men” indeed struggle with emotion.
  4. “If I knew that grand kids were so much fun, I would have had them first." Grandparenting turns out to be a source of joy for older adults fortunate to live near their offspring; however, getting along is a tricky business often addressed in therapy. 
  5. “Many people get married before they get born.” Decades ago, I taught clients and colleagues that we need to be full adults to couple well. The coupling skills need to be deeply ingrained for marriage to feel successful over time. 

Because therapy is now both fashionable and transformative, it is now a desirable and life-altering gift to the self. To celebrate advances in optimizing the power of the human spirit, in my next column, I look forward to reading about what therapy is and what it is not. Let’s look at large themes in this essential human health service:

  1. How can you find skillful psychotherapy that is affordable with help from insurance?
  2. What do the letters mean after a therapists’ name, and can you trust them? Do they need to be a doctor, or does a counselor possess adequate training?
  3. What is the difference in skill for someone with an MD in Psychiatry?
  4. How do therapists and counselors receive training to help clients change?
  5. Do pros need therapy themselves, and do they get it?

What happens behind that carefully closed door? What are typical problems people bring, and address successfully, when they are in the quiet of their own space?

From Jungian theory to existentialism, behavior therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, and eye-movement desensitization, clients learn to face tough issues head on. Here are a few themes:

  1. Therapy helps solve problems. What we do not understand can harm us. Therapy helps embrace and work effectively with life issues that create anxiety.
  2. Therapy increases happiness. Typical themes center around what makes a client unhappy. For example, I recently sat with a Mom of grown sons, who would do anything to help them with addictive tendencies they inherited through genetics.
  3. Relationship therapy is one of our greatest gifts. Because human unhappiness often involves love gone awry, working in interpersonal therapy with couples and families creates positive changes for generations to come.

Join us, as we devote a column to each of these themes. As Yoda, my favorite guru, says, “May the force be with you.” Yoda knows that the force for change is within each of us, waiting to be tapped for our best lives.

To consider: What do you need to change? What have you tried? What else can you do? Would you take the challenge? What might happen if you did?

To explore: To learn more, go to www.judithcoche.com to get a quick study of what therapy is and how it can help.

ED. NOTE: Dr. Coche practices clinical psychology in Stone Harbor and Philadelphia. She invites responses through her website, www.cochecenter.com.