I’d always been open to the idea of therapy.
I’d interviewed therapists and thought they were smart.
I love books written by therapists.
If friends told me they went I supported them.
But for myself? I was hesitant. I didn’t have significant mental health issues or trauma to deal with. I wasn’t sure if my concerns were legitimate enough to validate the expense.
But after talking myself in circles about a few themes that kept coming up in my life, I realized it might be something that was worth a try. Turns out that I spend money on dumb stuff (hello, Target impulse buys), but therapy isn’t on that list.
It’s been the most important thing I’ve done to improve my relationships, work output, and self-confidence.
Despite the positive impact therapy can offer, for many it’s still taboo.
Even for me, a card-carrying therapy-goer, I was nervous at first to divulge to friends and family that I was seeing a professional.
Mental health discussions are definitely more commonplace today, but we’re not where we need to be yet.
This became clear to me during an early visit to my therapist. A man walked into the shared waiting room to wait for his own therapist with a huge folder covering his face. He sat like that the entire time, so uncomfortable about being seen that he felt inclined to hide.
It made me sad for him.
Everyone there was waiting to see a mental health professional too, so clearly we’re all OK with the concept. But as a whole, we’ve stigmatized therapy so much that instead of applauding someone for wanting to improve themselves and seek support, we make them feel as if they have to hide.
I’ve never seen anyone hiding behind a folder while waiting to see my primary care doctor or dermatologist.
Just like going to any other healthcare professional improves your overall well-being, going to therapy has boosted my mental health in so many ways. If you’re on the fence about heading to therapy for the first time, here are five things I’ve learned from my experiences.
There is no set “problem threshold” you need to reach before going. From serious trauma to feeling stuck in a rut, all issues and stressors are valid.
Speaking of valid, don’t underestimate the power of validation. Your therapist shouldn’t be a “yes person”, but it’s unbelievably powerful to hear an unbiased party tell you “your feelings are normal.” Sure, your loved ones can tell you the same thing, but they’re your people. They’re supposed to say that, making you less inclined to believe them.
You can rant about anything. Friends, family, inconsiderate co-workers, the president, it’s all on the table. Go on as long as you’d like. Do that at wine night with your friends too often and your invitation starts getting lost in the mail.
It’s empowering to be able to be totally uncensored. You can do it without worrying about draining your inner circle or stressing about them divulging your private feelings to someone else.
Therapists can help you see things in a different light. Sometimes you’re too close to an issue to come up with a practical solution. Therapists help you reframe the problem and approach it differently so you can stop doing the same unproductive thing over and over.