Mental health practitioners, personal development books, professional coaching, and all sorts of other mediums are based around the practice or idea of therapy. Whether the conversations are happening internally, or are a dialogue between a therapist and a patient – they are all about a conversation and questioning.
The NPR Podcast “Life Kit” offers a quick read (or listen) and helps cover many of the barriers that people face when deciding if they can dip their toe into the pool of therapy. It’s about 20 minutes long (to listen to) and covers a wide array of things that might make someone hesitate in setting that first appointment.
While the conversation is growing, it still seems to be a bit of a taboo subject, and one that people are somehow made to feel ashamed of. Whether it is their own shame, or brought about by the judgement of others, cultural beliefs or some other source – let me say loud and proud:
IT. IS. NOTHING. TO. BE. ASHAMED. OF.
As a long standing patient (also have an undergrad degree in Psychology) I can admit that therapy is something I have taken part in since 2010 (eesh I didn’t realize it’s been a decade – I’m getting old!) and has been very beneficial to me. I have gone to therapy to deal with anxiety, depression, nightmares, personal development/growth and more. I believe it far sillier to sit and suffer silently/internally rather than to seek out help. It’s far more counterproductive to sit with these feelings of fear, anxiety, hopelessness, low self esteem and more, just letting them grow until they become all consuming and even more difficult to overcome.
Also from experience on both sides, I will remind that friends, family and partners are NOT therapists…and even if they are, it’s much too stressful to put that pressure on your relationship – and unless the issue is one directly between you and them, it’s best to take your issues elsewhere. I don’t care HOW much we tell ourselves “I can tell _____ anything” – you can’t and you never will. You won’t tell your partner about some random person you loved in the 10th grade and had a scary sexual experience with (at least not right away) and how it scarred you; and you won’t tell your mom about how her behavior when you were growing up might have modeled some unhealthy or untrue beliefs.
I’m better about it now than I ever have been, but now I ASK a friend or family member if they WANT to hear about whatever is upsetting me (not having anything to do with them), and if they have the mental/emotional space or capacity to deal with it. I don’t unload if they aren’t in a place to receive it – and if I feel I desperately NEED to speak to someone, then I find someone else or text my own mental health support system.
Seek out a therapist who can truly give you an unbiased view AND who you feel 100% comfortable being 100% honest with. If you go and meet them, and don’t get a warm and fuzzy, it’s OK to say no and try someone/somewhere else. I had a therapist who was (no offense to anyone) an older, white male. When we first met it seemed he couldn’t understand what I was saying, or I spent more time trying to explain my references in the conversation than I did getting my actual concerns out. Needless to say, I switched. As much as a person may have the requisite experience to do the job, their own experiences, age, gender, socio-economic background (and more) might not make them the right person for the job. I currently see someone for my own growth – and they are a lot closer in age to me, much more understanding of current trends, social media and pressures or issues pertaining to my life and lifestyle. It just works better.
Man. Woman. All races. All beliefs. I truly think that any person can benefit from getting things out of their head, in a safe space, and being challenged to look inward and question their own behaviors.