Teenagers, their parents (both, one or the other, or both) meet in the psychotherapist’s office with the question of how to save time for psychotherapy in the busy schedule of a young man and his family. Sometimes the question takes the form of a question: what is more important – school or therapy? It happens that the hours in which psychotherapy could take place to coincide with school hours, in which case patients have to make a choice. What to follow?
Therapy is more important
I remember talking to a very experienced professional colleague, a psychotherapist, who is also a psychiatrist. This man says that his position is simple and that it is simplified by the medical context of thinking. He thinks that people who come to him are looking for help with health issues in the first place, so it’s easy to tell him something like that: “Here we deal with your child’s health, hence medical considerations prevail over educational-pedagogical considerations. Therapy [psycho- and pharmacotherapy, as well as hospitalization] are more important in this context than science. That is why we subordinate matters related to the school to the use of therapy.
The school is important
In this case, I give up the graduation and do not decide to defend the position according to which school would be more important than therapy. However, I see at least two reasons why it is not easy to choose between treatment and learning or just going to school.
School is important in two ways:
Breakdown as a failure
Suspension of learning, both teenage patients and their parents can experience it as their own failure. In this sense, the therapist’s acceptance of the therapist’s proposal to take up therapy by giving up part of school classes for a long time once or twice a week is seen as a sign of failure in fulfilling social roles, realizing oneself in being a big child/young adult, and on the other hand as a parent. Learning is considered an important measure of family health – as Violetta Zając from the Therapy and Development Laboratory team rightly pointed out during our seminar on youth. From this point of view, patients who hear the therapist’s proposal that psychotherapy should take place during school hours and be treated as a priority experience this as a signal that it is very bad with their family. As a result, they often feel scared and depressed.
A school is an important place for development
School is not only about learning. It is also a place of social meetings, establishing peer relations, building a social position and practicing being in many roles (e.g. a colleague, peer, pupil, friend, boyfriend/girlfriend). You go to school not only to soak up textbook knowledge, but also to find out how other people cope with growing up, to be able to compare with them, to learn from them, and also to succumb to teachers, confront them, gain their respect and trust. School plays a similar role for young people at work for adults – it is a confirmation of their social status, organizes life, can give meaning or at least be a point of reference against which one can rebel. Relationships formed at school are much more dependent on the young people themselves than on those they have found rather than created in their own family.
Well, what, after all – school or therapy?
B. As a psychotherapist.
As a psychotherapist, I am of the opinion that it is worth temporarily suspending education and going to school in order to take care of the state of emotions. Thanks to a stronger psyche, a student using therapy temporarily will also cope with the challenge of catching up or even the prospect of a repetition of the classroom. This is not obvious in the case of choosing a school over and above treatment – giving up therapy in favor of learning may increase the feeling of pressure, and in the long run, failure to meet expectations. It is difficult to do even better if you do not have the additional support that therapy would offer.
There is a chance that during the therapy the negative thinking about a break in learning will change as well. The decision to take care of oneself, to take advantage of help, to allow oneself to express and receive care – and this all takes place in families that decide to undergo therapy – is in itself a very valuable experience.