I have been going to talk therapy on and off for almost 20 years, and I have never understood the stigma that is associated with it.
I mean, we have all had the stereotypical image of a therapist in our heads, right? We are lying on a couch, anxiously talking to a somber doctor who shakes his head occasionally and takes notes without talking much- which only makes us more anxious.
When I first started to see a therapist, I was not at a good place in my life. I was single, lonely and felt kind of stuck in a rut. All normal things to be going through in your 20s- when most people are in the process of self-discovery. I had arrived at a place where I didn’t know how to deal with my own emotional ups and downs due to said self-discovery and so, I sought out a therapist. I immediately found the value in talk therapy. My therapist would give me a roadmap to figure out how to deal with issues life threw at me. I learned invaluable coping skills and I also learned that it was OK for me to seek out professional help.
It’s perfectly acceptable to consult with a medical professional for a broken bone or cancer, so why do we feel so bad about getting a professional to help us with our emotional health? I came across this video of a TED Talk recently, in which Psychologist Guy Winch, beautifully makes this exact point.
Through the years, I have used talk therapy for support through all kinds of ups and downs in my life. Therapy has helped me deal with emotional issues like anxiety, low self-esteem, fear of social situations, family, relationships, friendships and, most recently, parenting. I have encouraged friends and loved ones to find a good therapist and even referred a few friends to my own therapist.
As a parent, I talk to my daughter about therapy because I want her to know that it is perfectly normal to see a therapist and I sincerely hope that she seeks one out when she is older to help her through her own self-discovery.
Since I have a ton of experience in this area, I thought it would be helpful to share some tips I have learned about talk therapy:
- Take your time finding the right therapist. Recommendations are great, but you need to be able to be comfortable with your therapist. My advice is to call several and interview them over the phone. Be honest, and tell them that you want to make sure they will be a good fit before committing to a full session. A good therapist will understand and respect this.
- Don’t hold back. Be completely honest with your therapist. If you are not totally up front, they are not going to be able to fully help you deal with your issues.
- Be open minded. A good therapist will not always agree with you. Check your ego at the door and listen! Your therapist wants to help and may have suggestions that you don’t agree with. Have an open mind and be ready to hear an opposing view.
- Remember that the only thing you can change is you. If you go to therapy wanting other things, people or situations in your life to change, you will be disappointed.
- Stop therapy when you are in a good place. I have been with my current therapist for about 6 years, on and off. There have been long breaks where I have been in a good place and I stop seeing her. I also know that she is just a phone call away and don’t hesitate to make an appointment when I am in need of her help.
- Don’t give up. It may take time to find the right therapist and you may have bad experiences. Hang in there. Look for someone else. I have seen several therapists that I didn’t connect with and always moved on until I found that deep connection. If you are in a similar situation, don’t stick around with a therapist who is not working for you.
I hope for our kid’s sake, as they grow older, there is less stigma associated with therapy, and that we all start prioritizing our mental and emotional health.