While the terms “Therapy” and “Mental Health” have often been used and heard by many in today’s society, there still seems to be somewhat of a disconnect at times between what Therapy is portrayed as in movies, music, etc., and what it can actually do for people who are in need of help or assistance.
Unfortunately, in today’s world, there is still a relatively large stigma toward individuals receiving therapy and mental health treatment. For a lot of older generations, seeking the help of someone else to deal with personal problems can be viewed as weakness, and an inability to deal with your own issues.
My goal in writing this is to help break some of those barriers that tend to keep individuals from seeking treatment, for fear that they are weak or might be scrutinized by those around them.
One question that I often get asked when talking about Mental Health is, “How would I know if Therapy is the right fit for me?” As I’ve had the chance to sit down and think through how best to answer this question, a couple of things come to mind.
While I do recognize and understand that there are many different types of treatment for mental health, and with that, a wide variety of therapists who have their own views and opinions on certain topics; These thoughts below are my own views and opinions as to how I view the therapeutic process.
One of the first things someone might want to know before attending therapy, is understanding what therapy actually is.
According to the American Psychiatric Association:
“Psychotherapy (Therapy) is a type of treatment that can help individuals experiencing a wide array of mental health conditions and emotional challenges. Psychotherapy can help not only alleviate symptoms, but also, certain types of psychotherapies can help identify the psychological root causes of one’s condition so a person can function better and have enhanced emotional well-being and healing”.
Therapy can be used to work through a variety of challenges and trials. These include, but are not limited to: Anxiety, Depression, PTSD/Trauma, Abuse, Addictions (substance use, pornography, etc.), Relationship and Family issues, Attachment, Eating Disorders, lack of Motivation/energy, Sleep Issues, low Self-confidence, Sports anxiety, Perfectionism, Co-dependency, Sexual related issues, etc. While the outreach and support of therapy can help individuals dealing with a wide range of topics, “first time” therapy goers tend to have pre-conceived notions and misconceptions as to what the role of the therapist actually is when working with the client.
Often times, individuals seeking therapy believe that they will go into the office one time, the therapist will tell them what to do, and then all the client’s issues instantly become fixed. This is not reality, and the result of this often leaves these types of clients confused, frustrated, and possibly even resentful towards ever seeking treatment again.
In my opinion, It is not the therapist’s job to just give the client “all the answers” to the issues that they are dealing with. The reason behind this is because the therapist is not an expert to every little situation or issue that may come up in someone’s life. What the therapist can be used for, is a sounding board and support system to work together (collaboratively with the client) on figuring out what could be some possible solutions to help bring peace, comfort, and happiness in the client’s life. There are many benefits of working with clients in this way. One is that it allows clients to practice INTERNALLY working through and figuring out solutions to problems they have, by learning how to self-regulate themselves in a safe and supportive environment.
In other words, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day, teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime”.
Now, just because it’s not the therapist job to “give advice”, doesn’t mean that there aren’t times throughout the therapeutic process where insight, suggestions, homework, and even educating clients on research studies or skills could be helpful. The main idea I want to get across here is that if you are just attending therapy for “advice”, you may find yourself feeling disappointed and frustrated with what you find.
Another question I often get is, “How long should I be in Therapy for?” The short answer to this is that anyone could benefit from therapy for the rest of their lives. Gaining insight and better understanding into who we are is a lifelong process, right? ☺
The longer and more complex answer to that question is very dependent on what it is that you’re bringing into therapy to work on, as well as the goals (treatment plan) that you create with your therapist in that initial visit. Therapy is a process that sometimes takes a good amount of time, requires adequate patience, and a willingness to be vulnerable and open with how you’ve been feeling.
I’ve had clients who have felt that a session or two was sufficient enough for them. While I’ve had other clients who I’ve been seeing off and on for a few years. In my opinion, the length of therapy isn’t near as important of a question as making sure that there is continuous progress in the process.
A common misconception I hear from others is that therapy is only for people who are “crazy or mentally unstable.” In my experience, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is that some of the smartest, happiest, kindest, and most “mentally stable” individuals I’ve met, attend therapy. I’ve had the opportunity to work with collegiate and professional athletes, successful business men/women, decorated fighter jet pilots, politicians, religious leaders, Medical experts, cancer survivors, and just some amazing people all around. Many of these individuals realize that therapy can be beneficial for many reasons. Sometimes it’s about learning life skills, while other times therapy is more about having a safe place to discuss concerns or fears with a non-biased third party. There is comfort and healing in a therapeutic relationship.
Therapy is something that EVERYONE can benefit from. Mental illness and stress does NOT discriminate. It doesn’t care about the color of your skin, or your socio-economic status. It affects people of all ages, lifestyles, and backgrounds. There is NO shame in utilizing a professional to better yourself and create the life that you want to live.
This life is too dang short to live without giving it our all to be the happiest we can be.
If you, or anyone else you know may benefit from meeting with a therapist, please feel free to reach out and I can help set you up in the right direction. Whether it be scheduling you to meet with me or even just pointing you in the right direction of someone who can better assist you.
You are not alone!