Dolly Alderton sought help from a psychoanalytic therapist
Therapy improved relationships and helped with anxiety and unhealthy coping mechanisms
If you are struggling with making sense of life, find a therapist
Dolly Alderton contributed this post to author and comedian Ariane Sherine's book Talk Yourself Better:
I found my therapist through a friend’s recommendation. She had been seeing the therapist for a couple of years and the change in her was so dramatic and positive it was enough to make me finally make the call.
She was the first and only therapist I’ve tried. Every therapist is different – mine is ruthlessly honest. She doesn’t ask leading questions or help me get to a conclusion on my own over a period of sessions – she gives me her opinion on everything I present to her. She doesn’t hide her emotions and she doesn’t beat around the bush – if I’ve done something really stupid she tells me. I needed that. And I needed someone tough.
She wouldn’t be for everyone, but I am lucky enough to have a wonderful support network of friends and family in my life who can hug me and make me tea and tell me everything’s going to be OK when that’s what’s called for. What I needed from a therapist was someone who could tell me in a black-and-white way where I had to take responsibility for things going wrong in my life.
My therapist is Freudian [psychoanalytic], but I didn’t know that before I started seeing her. At first, I found it difficult because I felt the obsession with childhood and family to be sort of irrelevant. I was much more concerned with the here and now and, naturally, I didn’t like hearing any analysis or criticism about my upbringing or family, because I love them.
But slowly I’ve come to realise that the first 18 years of our life really forms the entire context from which we enter into the world, and everything in the here and now relates to it. It doesn’t define us, but it certainly explains us. And contrary to popular belief, therapy isn’t about the blame game – it’s about understanding that context, and your parents’ context, and that first chapter of your story, to explain your habits, behaviours, fears and hang-ups. And then, crucially, it’s about finding practical ways to change.
Therapy has changed everything in my life – it’s improved my relationships, it’s helped me control and understand my anxiety, it’s dramatically changed my historically unhealthy coping mechanisms including alcohol, drugs and sexual validation. It’s helped me understand that everyone has a context from which they enter the world, and to be more compassionate and patient while keeping that in mind.
Most importantly, it’s allowed me to be vulnerable both in my sessions and then in my relationships and day-to-day life, by helping me understand who I am and being comfortable with presenting that, alongside the imperfect bits, rather than performing for approval. It’s the best decision I ever made.