Therapy. Such a simple word for such a complex thing in people’s lives. If you’ve never worked with a therapist (and frankly, even if you have), it can maintain an air of mystery that repels you from the whole process. What will the experience be like? Will I be able to afford it? How is a complete stranger going to know how to help me? Will this “fix” me? At the end of the day, only you have the ability to determine what will work for you. That takes time, as well as a whole lot of trial and error. But in the beginning of the process, it can be helpful to hear some inside knowledge about the experience. To shed a little light, if you will. Settle in.
First up, let’s go over some positive parts of therapy.
When you’re in a really tough spot in your life, either because of an on-going mental illness or a stressful situation, we all know that it can be helpful to have someone to talk to. Whether that be a friend or a professional, the act of opening up is a huge relief in an otherwise dark time. However, sometimes the issue with friends and family is that they are often too close to the source, as well as ill-equipped to help you. Professionals on the other hand, have the training and the experience to guide you to important insights on your way to recovery. They undergo years of preparation, in school and in clinical settings, for that exact purpose. Furthermore, they can provide you with techniques that are beneficial in your day-to-day life. Twenty-three year old Natalie Del Curto, a therapy supporter, states:
“Growing up and feeling the way I did, I often felt that I was alone/ignored/unloved/under-appreciated. Through therapy I was able to just talk or vent or cry without feeling that I could potentially ruin a relationship, platonic or otherwise.”
Natalie, along with many other people, suspects that she will use therapy in some form for the rest of her life. Others, such as 23 year old Chelsea Schramm, say that even when they no longer sought therapy, they still use the techniques they learned to this day. “Therapy helped me to become comfortable with the fact that it’s ok to talk about your struggles and to vent and to need advice or comfort, and that being open and communicating such vulnerable things about yourself is a sign of strength, not weakness.”
Now, for the tougher stuff.
It’s important to be prepared for the obstacles you may face while trying therapy. One such difficulty is that of access, both financially and location-wise. While the price per visit of professionals varies based on specialty and length of training, it can be upwards of $200 (in the higher end of the spectrum). Understandably, most people can’t absorb those out-of-pocket expenses and will turn to insurance for support. And here, many people are hit with a roadblock. Many insurance companies will not cover mental health treatment, and if they do, they will only cover a specific number of visits and/or be accepted by certain therapists. Marissa Jaregui, a long-time anxiety sufferer, remembers the experience as “painful”. In an interview, Jaregui recounted the struggle to find therapist who would take her family’s insurance:
“We had to look for therapists in local non-profits who had large caseloads of youth/children who needed therapy. Getting an evaluation and therapist or case worker (LCSW) from them took months, to be exact 3-4 months.”
Along with the waiting process, many have to travel far outside their area to attend the sessions. Or, in unfortunate cases, it can mean you are unable to obtain the help you need.
Another issue that arises is when you are actually receiving treatment. Unfortunately, not every therapist can meet your needs or figure out the right way to communicate with you in an effective way. As every individual will respond differently to specific treatment techniques and communication styles, you will sometimes find that a certain therapist just doesn’t “fit” you. Or, less common but still possible, they are not respectful to you and your cultural background, religion, gender identity, sexual preferences/ relationship styles, or trauma due to their own biases. It’s an extremely crucial truth: Therapists are people, just like you and me. They have flaws, and they will make mistakes. Understanding this can help you keep perspective on therapists in general, and not enter into therapy expecting them to be devoid of any negative qualities. It can often take a few tries with a few different therapists to find one that fits you and your needs.
So, where does that leave you?
Well, now that you know both sides of the equation, you can hopefully make a more informed decision to enter or forgo psychological treatment. However, if you are leaning towards avoiding the journey altogether, let me leave you with this. Overall, even with an extremely difficult past with therapy, most people will still tell you to give it a try. Whether you walk out of it with a whole new lease on life or just a nugget of truth and an intent to never return, you are still gaining ground on a closer relationship with yourself and your needs.
Disclaimer: mental health treatment is a personal process, what works for one may not work for another.
This post was written by Lia Freitas as a part the Therapy 101 collection. Please send any questions or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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