It’s not just for those struggling. For those with mental illness. For those completely lost and shrouded in darkness. For those who don’t even realize they’re lost in the first place. For those in denial that there’s a problem in sight.
Everyone needs therapy. Seriously. With all the benefits it can provide, I know my own journey is not a unique one, and as I continue learning more about myself and the process, I’m sure I’ll have plenty of new insight for myself and hopefully to share with you.
Benefits of therapy.
As with other forms of mental health treatment, therapy is no exception to being stigmatized. Many people see therapy as a last-ditch resort, a sign of weakness that we cannot handle our lives and emotions on our own. However, we all have room for self-improvement. We should always be willing to change and grow. If we all remained stagnant, stubbornly stuck on our normal habits and coping mechanisms, we’re preventing ourselves from expanding our outlooks.
Your mental health is as important as, or even more so, your physical health. That means you should be regularly checking in on it as you would with a yearly doctor’s appointment. Mental health can be a tad more finicky than our physical health because everyone needs regular therapy to keep things running smoothly. I’d sure hope you wouldn’t wait a full year for a single therapy session when you should see it as a work constantly in progress.
Research has shown that verbalizing feelings can have a significant therapeutic effect on the brain. In other words, getting your worries out in the open (even the “insignificant” ones) — particularly with someone trained to help you manage them — is a good thing for your well-being. Talking with a professional allows you to get a sense of how you appear to other people, helps you get feedback on whatever you’re feeling and offers insight on how those emotions are affecting your everyday life.
Therapy also holds you accountable for the goals you make, whether they’re mentally driven or otherwise, which can bring confidence, peace of mind and, ultimately, more meaning to life. When we always have something to work on, we’re motivated to do the same in all aspects of life. This growth mindset keeps us from that vicious comparison game and envious tendencies because we’re too busy working on ourselves to think of others beyond encouraging their own ambitions.
My own therapy journey.
I haven’t always been the biggest proponent of therapy. I only first visited a counselor after graduating high school, tried it for a month, and called it good. Since the program was through my local counseling services offering a few free sessions, I accepted my parents’ insistence I go do it amidst a really dark depressive episode, and while it did allow an opportunity for some enlightenment, it only went so far.
The same sentiment goes with my next counselor, a student through my university’s psychology program earning her degree. Being at college in a small town, this was really my only option when I fell into a bad relapse with my eating disorder. I visited this counselor for five months, sometimes going multiple times a week, and for my eating disorder recovery, it was exactly what I needed, but the help only went so far. The strict regime of writing every food I ate down, weighing myself biweekly and the other structured details ended up doing more harm than good and neglected my other mental health concerns, so those visits ended up dwindling.
I’ve gone two years without a single therapy session, a streak I broke a few weeks ago. Since trying functional medicine for my physical and mental health, a huge suggestion my doctor had was to see a therapist she recommended to me. I was skeptical to say the least. My previous experiences never had me meshing well with the counselor, making every appointment awkward and slightly closed off.
My mind completely changed once visiting this recommended therapist, a woman with years of psychology under her belt. She is an angel on earth, so warm and welcoming, allowing for conversation to flow naturally. Admittedly, I haven’t dived deeply into this experience yet, just dipping my toes in, but I’m hopeful. I really see myself having that “aha” therapist relationship I’ve always been looking for.
Start your own journey.
Anyone who’s tried therapy probably knows, it’s not an automatic click. You’ll likely have to try several different people before finding someone that makes you comfortable. The true benefits of therapy come in making the most of it, which means you really need to bare your soul and all the ugly places we otherwise brush aside and mask. You don’t make friends with every person you meet, and a therapist is no different. If you don’t click with someone, try somebody else and keep searching until you find that best match.
There are also many different kinds of therapy to try beyond lying on a couch one-on-one with a professional. Not only does technology allow for less expensive options that connect you with professionals near and far, but you can also benefit from group settings, art therapy, and other options. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and try something new.
Don’t expect immediate, life-changing results from therapy. Many people are likely to ditch their counselor when they realize that it’s not like visiting a doctor and being prescribed a medication: you have to work for progress. Just as you cannot change your mindset overnight, you need to consciously implement new coping and problem-solving strategies into your life to notice any results. The work you put into therapy will come back to you.
Go into the therapy session with the right attitude. If you’re in denial and don’t want to participate, you’re wasting everybody’s time. Yes, you need therapy. You will benefit from going to therapy. You are not weak for going to therapy, and you shouldn’t be ashamed for it. In fact, you should be proud and invigorated by taking care of your mental health, especially if you’re “already happy” and are proactively keeping it that way.
We all go through up’s and down’s, and the wisdom of a trained professional can be exactly what you need to expose yourself to new coping mechanisms and stress management techniques. Approaching therapy with no prior experience is scary, but face that fear head-on. Accept it. Embrace it. Go into that session admitting your fears and hesitations, and you’ll likely utilize those emotions toward forward progress.
Therapy isn’t always going to be looking like a movie’s interpretations. Therapy won’t always seem valuable to you. But everyone needs therapy. You’re not an exception to that. Open your mind to the idea, and treat yourself well.
Do you have hesitations around therapy? What are your suggestions for those considering therapy for the first time?
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie