Can Therapy Help Loneliness?

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Honestly, I feel kind of funny anytime I talk about this or am actually honest about my feelings regarding this issue. I think it is partly because people tend to give me the “love yourself,” “you never know when the perfect guy is coming,” “it just isn’t your time yet” speech which inevitably makes me feel like my feelings are invalid.

My issue is that I have never really dated. I’ve never had a boyfriend (and yes, I am definitely heterosexual) or anything remotely like it. I have had few sexual relationships (if I can even call it that) in the past, but there was no real connection and deeper feelings were not allowed and/or definitely not reciprocated. In the last couple of years, I made the decision to not get into those kinds of situations anymore because ultimately, they made me feel worse.

For lack of better words, I feel completely out of place. Shouldn’t I have had some kind of relationship where real feelings were exchanged between myself and another person by now? I don’t need for the man that I am going to marry to come walking through the door and I’m not obsessing over finding ‘Mr. Right’… I just want to feel like a normal young woman who is dating, learning about myself and who I ultimately want by experiencing love and even heartbreak, and able to know (to some degree) that when the time comes for me to want and actively seek real love and companionship that I will be able to. I can’t even fathom myself finding my life partner if I have never gotten the chance to date at all.

While I definitely count all of my blessings and I honestly know that there are great aspects of my life, I still feel surrounded by people who have these experiences and I have no idea what it feels like to be in their shoes. It makes me extremely sad. I totally understand the concept of self validation… but what about external validation? As much as I am able to get up everyday, appreciate and respect myself, and make the most out of the hand that I’ve been dealt… how do I not feel unwanted, unattractive, alone, etc.? I don’t understand why people are allowed and expected to feel happy about being in a relationship but on the other hand, I am not supposed to feel bad about never having been in one. This year as been especially hard on me. I’m 6 months away from my 26th birthday and I feel helpless. I don’t want to feel like the same little lonely girl that I was in high school anymore.

I guess I’m just wondering how therapy can help? I have considered it but like I mentioned previously, I feel very silly about the feelings that I have due to conversations I’ve had with friends and family. Any suggestions?

A: Your letter is helpful because you sound very much in touch with your pain. But I do think therapy has something to offer. However, I don’t think it’s individual therapy that will give you what you want. I think this may be the perfect opportunity to join a group. Group therapy doesn’t talk about the issues as much as allows you to experience them directly into group. Many people who come to group therapy are struggling with issues of connection and looking to find an understanding of their isolation.

It is like going into a fitting room where there are several mirrors around you at different angles. You get to see yourself through the lens of other people. These different perspectives give you insight into how you are received by others.

I would also encourage you to engage in some new activities so that you can meet new people. A photography class, an exercise class, something new to learn with new people to meet — this gives you an opportunity to try out your newfound perspective and some group therapy in the real world.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 23 Aug 2013

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2013). Can Therapy Help Loneliness?. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 26, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/08/23/can-therapy-help-loneliness/