Gift Certificates for Therapy

Friends of ours recently got involved in a fundraising effort. They asked local businesses to donate some product or service. The idea was that the business got to promote itself by offering gift certificates. Without really thinking I volunteered to join in. This was met by a long, awkward pause. “Um, that’s really nice of you, Jim but maybe someone giving their friend or family member a gift certificate for a therapy session wouldn’t be well received.”

Oh. Right. I forgot. There has to be something very wrong with you to go to therapy.

It occurred to me that I utilize a ton of services when nothing is wrong. I utilize them because I want better than what I have. I go to Chef on Demand, Thistles, and Yoshi’s because they make better food than I do. I see health care providers preventatively because I’m not young anymore. I see amazing healers like Lisa Morin for massage therapy because while I feel fine she makes me feel better.

I have the world’s greatest mechanic, Sean Murray – Campus Service Center, Orono. I don’t go see him just because something is terribly wrong. I go see him because I want things to run smoothly and optimally. My vehicles are a big investment and I keep them forever, therefore I want to take the very best care of them possible. I see the relationship I have with myself in much the same way. I am going to be with me 24/7/365 until I die. Therefore I invest in myself.

I see recommending therapy as saying to someone, “You deserve to be happier and healthier than you are.” Unfortunately, folks often get defensive. They‘re alarmed that we’ve seen through their clever façade. Seriously – it’s not hard to tell how a person feels about themselves and their lives – just notice where their eyes are most of the time.

What’s interesting (and an honor) is that nearly all of the folks who come to see me are referred by friends or family. Maybe their loved ones waited for them to ask for help. I’ve always wondered how people choose a therapist if they don’t have a personal recommendation?

I imagine folks going to the yellow pages and seeing a bunch of ads that all kind of say the same thing. I imagine people looking at web sites and trying to figure out what the difference is between a psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist and counselor. I wonder if folks stare blankly at the alphabet soup of letters that clinicians have after their names and if they think those letters determine whether the clinician is any good.

Maybe you pick someone who has a friendly looking face. Maybe you pick the guy whose office is closest to your work. Maybe you pick the place that has a pleasant sounding name. I dunno – seems like a bit of a lottery. I encourage folks to interview their potential therapist to ensure a good fit – remember that we work for you. When you go see a hair stylist you have a pretty good idea of how you want things to turn out. Go into the therapy with the same vision – tell your clinician what it’s like where you are – then describe where you want to be – and make sure they know how to help you get from here to there.

I dunno if Higher Ground will ever offer gift certificates – but I look forward to the day when as a society we see therapy less as a last resort and more as an investment in self.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.