I always forget that therapy isn't as socially accepted and mainstream as it should be. Therapy has been a huge part of my life as a child and as an adult. I was blessed that my mom introduced me to therapy at 14 years old. Back then, it was because I suffered from low self esteem but it's also been a huge resource to help me process painful events.
I truly believe everyone can benefit from therapy. Going to therapy doesn't mean you're crazy or weak. It's not something you should be ashamed of. So many of us have pain, trauma, or grief that we're holding onto from the past and therapy is a valuable tool to help you heal and move forward toward a happier version of yourself.
Before I tell you more about how therapy works I want to talk about what happens if you ignore your feelings and don't deal with your pain/insecurities. You can only ignore your pain for so long before it starts to bubble back up and a lot of times it comes up as other emotions such as anger, depression, or anxiety.
Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. If you had a tumor in your body you wouldn't ignore the tumor and pretend like it wasn't there. You would take action to address and resolve the tumor, otherwise it could potentially get worse. The same is true with mental health. If you ignore your feelings they will manifest into more pain and potentially lead physical ailments as well.
Therapy is a healthy, safe way to take care of your mental health but it can be intimidating and overwhelming so here are some simple steps to empower you to take the necessary actions for your wellbeing. There is no such thing as too little of a problem. If you are feeling unwell, your feelings are valid and justified. I used to think that I wasn't allowed to feel sadness because other people had more problems than me but that's simply not true. We are all allowed to feel how we feel without explanation.
How to Find a Therapist:
1.) Ask around for recommendations. More people than you think are going to therapy but for some reason we're all afraid to talk about it.
2.) Do a Google search or reach out to your church for referrals.
3.) Go to the therapist's website and make sure you connect with their messaging.
4.) You can usually schedule a free consultation to see if it's a good fit. Have an open conversation of what you're looking for.
5.) Ask if they take insurance, have a sliding scale (offer discounts), or take HSA.
Okay so now you're ready for your first appointment. Here's what you expect:
1.) You're likely going to be super anxious before you go. That's totally normal. You're doing something new and you'll likely bring up a lot of feelings but remember you have to go through your feelings to get to the other side.
2.) You may want to write down what you want to talk about so you have a fail safe if you forget.
3.) You may also find it helpful to take notes on what your therapist says so you can go back to them later.
4.) Sometimes you have to "shop" around. This can be frustrating because you feel like you're wasting time/money but you'll know pretty early on if your therapist is someone you feel comfortable talking to.
5.) If you have a bad experience that doesn't mean all therapists are bad. It's just like dating. Just because you date one bad guy doesn't mean you should give up on all men!
I just left my appointment. Now what:
1.) If you're like me, you're going to experience a range of emotions after each therapy session. I would often feel a lot of anger because I had been suppressing my anger for so long and was finally bringing it up. That's totally normal to feel a lot of new or intense emotions!
2.) Give yourself an hour or so after therapy before you jump back into work or anything else. Allow space for yourself to process what just happened.
3.) It's going to take some time to relieve yourself from whatever you've been holding onto. Don't expect all your problems to be fixed after one session. It's a journey and it will take some time. I used to ask my therapist how to resolve my problems and she would say I'm in the process of it just by talking about it.
Going to a therapist can be very scary and intimidating if you've never done it before. If you feel in your heart you could benefit from talking to someone the I'd encourage you to go for it. Take it one step at a time and give yourself grace along the way. It's messy but it's worth it, just like life.
IG @stephygthatsme and @showuptogoup