Published on July 15th, 2013 | by Amy Jane Helmericks
Life & Fiction: Pick a Genre
When you go to counseling for the first time, it’s useful—for you and the therapist—to know why.
If you have something specific that drove you to counseling, it can help direct the beginning of your time together. The focus may change, but it’s a starting place.
I think of it as giving yourself a genre to work from.
In literature, or at least, in submitting a book for publication, you need to get more specific than “Dystopian-Paranormal-Fantasy-Romance with SciFi elements and a Chick Lit feel.” I can already imagine the type of novel that would fit that description, and I think it would be crazy-fun to write, but a bookstore, and therefore a publisher, will have to ask, “Where it would be shelved?”
In the same way, recognizing your issue down to a very finite level will probably give you a great deal of personal relief and even satisfaction, but being too specific will also limit the type of help you may receive.
I discovered the concept of “giftedness” early in my attempt to recover, and recognized it was linked to my feeling of disconnect and not-right-ness I didn’t have language for.
Trying to find a counselor who knew how to talk about concepts of giftedness was both challenging and embarrassing. Primarily because I had to begin with receptionists and schedulers who had no frame of reference for what I was trying, fumblingly, to describe.
The larger genre, the one I finally accepted because it was true anyway, was depression.
Naming my genre—depression—got me in the door and gave me some starting vocabulary to begin communicating with my counselors, but ultimately depression wasn’t my problem. No one, single, nameable thing all by itself was the switch that needed to be flipped.
I really believe someone can write that novel I described (this one seems pretty close), but pitching it to a publisher or agent still had to start somewhere, and complexity is really only understood through experience.
I experienced a complex depression, mixed up with exhaustion and grief along with the sense of being out of place in my own world, what I associated at the time with giftedness.
Ultimately, my health grew out of an integration, but humans, including counselors, desire simplicity, even as they create complexity.
For starters, with both books and counseling, pick a nameable category. It doesn’t have to describe all of you, because a good counselor (just like a good agent or editor) is going to be as invested as you are in finding the right terms and placement for what is really going on.
If they think your terminology is too limiting, they will say so, and in that correction is the signal of their entering into your world. If you feel your concerns are being dismissed you have the right to say so or to leave and find a therapist who will accept you as someone who doesn’t fit neatly into a single box, tidy on a single bookshelf.
A broad genre gets you heard the first time. Who you are, uniquely yourself, is what lasts and, ultimately, what you will be working with.
Image altered from a photo by Kruno Knezevic via Stock.Xchng.