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Cheaper Than Therapy

Natalia J. Garland

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Every now and then I hear someone refer to their hobby as therapy. What's worse is when they say, cheaper than therapy. I was recently watching a craft program on television. The guest presentor nervously laughed about her extensive involvement in her craftwork and made the remark that, well, it's cheaper than therapy.

Are hobbies really cheaper than therapy? Some hobbies can be very expensive in terms of supplies, equipment and fees. Making quilts, for example, is expensive nowadays. You need a good sewing machine. You need fabric, thread, batting, patterns, and lots of time and patience. Playing a sport is also expensive. Try pricing a tennis racket or some golf clubs. Then you also need the appropriate clothing, and a place to play which usually involves a fee.

I suspect that people feel a little guilty about all the money they spend on their hobbies. Perhaps the cheaper than therapy motto provides an excuse to do what they love and a justification for the amount of money spent. As though any artistic pursuit should need justification!

How do people arrive at a comparison with therapy? Hobbies, crafts and sports can provide relaxation and socialization, and perhaps an emotionally stabilizing effect. Some hobbies like fishing or hiking may produce a meditative or reflective mental state which is beneficial to the participant. Making a connection with nature can help people set priorities and restore values. But this still is not therapy.

Therapy involves a relationship. It involves talking to a professional whom you trust. Therapy can mean discussing painful emotions, making difficult changes, facing harsh realities, as well as discovering strengths and learning to live more fully. If there were such a thing as evolution, I would say that therapy speeds up the evolutionary process. A year in therapy might produce more positive changes than 20 years of sitting on the river bank with a fishing pole.

What are people really saying about themselves? It could be that they do indeed feel a need for therapy. Perhaps they are unhappy, dissatisfied, or troubled in some way. A hobby may at least provide distraction and relief from daily stress. Moreover, a hobby does not carry a stigma like therapy does. If you make a quilt, you have a beautiful product to show your friends. If you go to therapy, the results are deeply personal and more private.

Therapy is actually a bargain considering the lifelong usefulness of the emotional gains. It is a worthy investment in oneself, and it has a healthy ripple effect for the whole family and for society. The cheaper than therapy remark is almost like a slur. It sounds like a prejudice against people who make their living by helping others.

Hobbies are great. I have several myself. Looking forward to my hobbies refreshes the quality of my life. In fact, getting a hobby is often a goal which I encourage for my therapy patients. But hobbies are not the equivalent of therapy. An apple is not an orange. A horse is not a cat. A hobby is not therapy. (Written 11/04/02)

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2002 Natalia J. Garland