People also assume that therapy is only for those who are struggling with deep internal issues or are “crazy.”
I firmly believe that every person on the planet could benefit from therapy. I myself have been going to therapy every week for about four years and don't plan on stopping. I know that I’ve seen an astronomical amount of improvements in my mental and emotional well-being since I started (just ask my therapist!). There are many skeptics and non-believers out there who think the practice of psychotherapy itself is bogus.
There are many stereotypes about therapy that perpetuate the stigma around it, about which many of you rolling your eyes right now are probably thinking. One of the most common misconceptions is what I like to call the “How do you feel about that?” line of questioning. I’ve seen this play out on many TV shows and movies, where one of the characters visits a therapist who simply asks them “How do you feel about that?” in response to everything they say. Therapy is not as simple as that, and in actuality, is based on such complex theories of praxis that those who are licensed must spend at least seven years studying. Not only that, but therapists also take exams, complete internships or supervised practicums in order to become licensed. So if you fear that you’ll be smarter than your therapist, let me put your fear to rest.
People also assume that therapy is only for those who are struggling with deep internal issues or are crazy. While it’s true that those who are dealing with mental illness or health issues can benefit from therapy, it’s not only created for those dealing with these issues. The type of treatment that you get will vary vastly based on your needs, and you get to determine what those are!
There are also many different kinds of therapy and therapists, and they all use different approaches in their practice. You could have a talk therapist, an art therapist, a physical therapist, or even participate in animal therapy! The most common form of therapy is talk, of course, where you sit with a therapist and verbally work to address your concerns. But even in talk therapy, there are many different kinds of praxes used, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBD), psychoanalysis, psychodynamic therapy, and interpersonal therapy. They all have different purposes and utliize different techniques, so you can find a form that works for you, depending on what you hope to accomplish in therapy and what kinds of techniques you’re comfortable with.
Now, let’s get back to talking about why and how therapy can help you. Simply put, you have to be invested in therapy in order for it to work, and I’m not just talking financially. You have to put in the work between your sessions and actually change your behavior in order to see any progress. One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is going to their therapists once a week and then resuming their lives as normal for the other 167 hours. They don’t actually make any changes and are probably not taking it seriously. Going to therapy is more than just a venting session, although you can certainly use it as a safe place to vent if that’s what you need, since the idea is to heal and go forward with a better life. But why even bother making all of the time and financial investment if you’re not going to follow through?
Think about all of the ways in which therapy can empower you. Do you want to heal old wounds from your childhood? Therapy is great for that. Are you struggling to find your footing in romantic relationships? Boom! Therapy can give you a lot of answers as to why this is. Are you sabotaging all of your work opportunities? You guessed it, therapy can be there to support you. I don’t think there are many issues one form of therapy or another can’t tackle, but be intentional going in, knowing what you want to work on. Otherwise, you may waste your sessions talking about your relationship to your mom, when what you really want is to work on self-care.
Another point to consider when you're deciding on how to maximize your time in therapy is to find the right therapist to work with. Therapy is a lot like dating in that you need to find your perfect match. Some therapists’ styles won’t jive with you, and that’s OK! Make sure to do an introductory session first in order to test the waters before you sign on with that therapist for the near future. Ask them questions about their tactics and philosophy on how they work, how they deal with any conflict that comes up, payment schedules, email policies, and everything you can think of! If you don’t do this, you run the risk of working with someone who is not a match for you, with all of your effort and time being wasted. I’ve worked with many therapists who weren’t a good fit for me and moved on — don’t be afraid to do this if it’s not working. Any good therapist will understand and not hassle you to try to keep you on as a client.
Are you convinced that you need to try therapy yet? A lot of people also wonder how to go about finding a therapist and the Internet is a great place to start. Figure out what form of therapy you want, then look for therapists in your area that specialize in that practice. You can also narrow down your results by searching according to topic area specialty, like eating disorders or depression. If you’re comfortable enough to talk to loved ones about this, consider asking around for referrals. Just be sure to not go to someone that someone you know is currently working with, or that could create a conflict of interest.
I know it might be hard to take that initial leap of faith, but trust in yourself enough to be confident in your decision. Also, take some time to celebrate! Getting help can be incredibly hard to do and you’re taking a huge step in the right direction.
And kudos to you for taking such good care of yourself!