Therapy can be difficult to navigate. In undergrad, one of my senior research projects was an extensive study called, “You Think I Need I What? Reactions to Therapy Recommendations”. We surveyed hundreds of college students and presented our findings at a local research symposium. We created hypotheses about who would be the least receptive to a therapy recommendation based on variables such as age, gender, and ethnic background. Years after this I sought therapy for my own personal problems. My experiences are not entirely unique but also shouldn’t be your standard for all therapy.
With everyone going on right now, a lot of people are considering therapy, but with rampant misunderstandings and overbearing cultural beliefs, seeking therapy may be more difficult for some than others.
EVERY THERAPIST IS DIFFERENT
This is the biggest thing I want to emphasize. Not every therapist you find is going to be professional, but that is not every therapist. Some therapists simply listen, some offer advice (even though we’re not supposed to), and some share a little (or A LOT) of their personal lives. I actually broke it off with my therapist because he talked way too much about himself and couldn’t be bothered to remember details I have previously shared. We never got to discuss the reason I was there. It was just like he was shooting the breeze with a friend. He didn’t take my problems seriously and instead of healing, I got angrier.
This was my experience, but my psychiatrist is amazing. Years can pass and she still remembers details about my life. We laugh about things we really shouldn’t find funny and she genuinely has my best interest at heart (but she’s not a talk therapist). A lot of psychiatrists are not talking therapists – they simply manage medication (more on that later) while liaising with your talk therapist.
I have NEVER gotten along with any male psychologist (or talk therapist). None of them ever took my problems seriously. And if they weren’t straight up tuning me out, they were blaming me for my own problems. So unfortunately, as a therapist, my own personal experience with therapy has been awful. However, I have friends who have benefited tremendously from it. Each experience is unique and different, so don’t let that stop you.
THERE ARE DIFFERENT TYPES OF THERAPY
Think of it as religion. All religions have different sects. Take Christianity. Within it, you’ll find Catholicism, Anglican, Baptist, Jehovah’s Witness, and more. They all essentially believe the same thing but have different approaches to that shared belief. That’s therapy. I am a trained Structural Family Therapist. I believe in creating and restructuring boundaries within the family unit as a part of systemic therapy. But some therapists are behaviourists, solution-focused, and even holistic. Just because I am a family therapist doesn’t mean I only treat families. I can also treat individuals, best friends, divorced, and unmarried couples. I was also trained in group therapy. Some people heal better from sharing their experiences with similar people because it makes them feel less alone. Some people would never benefit from sharing in a room full of strangers.
However, just because I am a therapist, doesn’t mean I can or I want to treat all problems. I always tell people I am not a grief therapist because I am lousy in that area so I cannot help anyone who is grieving or possibly going through trauma. If more therapists were willing to admit they are not strong counselors on certain topics, it would save people a lot more trauma. It is very important to learn this and your style when looking for the right therapist.
THERAPY IS COSTLY BUT INSURANCE ACTUALLY COVERS IT
Without insurance, I wouldn’t be able to afford therapy. I was actually surprised when I found out my insurance company covers it. So if you’re thinking about it, contact your insurance company and ask them if mental health is covered. With insurance, my bill comes to about $53 per visit. So if you have to see a therapist every 2 weeks, that really adds up. If medication is involved, that’s a separate fee.
MEDICATION IS NOT MANDATORY
MEDICATION DOES NOT MEAN YOU ARE CRAZY. For some reason, people have it in their heads that if they take meds, it’s something to be ashamed of and they’re loony. The only shame is others judging people who take meds. It does not mean a person is crazy or less than. Some people just need a little help. The same way we advocate for ADHD meds and see the value in them, antidepressants and benzodiazepines are a miracle to most users and should be treated with respect.
Your therapist can suggest medication, but you have the right to refuse it (unless the rare court mandate). Medication isn’t for everyone and you should know if you choose it, you won’t see consistent results until after the first 2 weeks because that’s how long it takes your body to adjust. Medication once prescribed must be followed strictly. You know those commercials where they suggest asking your doctor about certain medications and if it’s right for you? Don’t ever do that. It doesn’t actually work like that. Your doctor (you know the one who actually went to school for this stuff) know’s which combination will work best for and usually comes after running blood work to rule out other factors. Your doctor will also be willing to prescribe generic brands because they are much cheaper if the price is a factor for you. Please report all allergic reactions , side effects, and anything you don’t like immediately with your doctor. For example, I once had a pill get stuck on my chest and give me horrible indigestion every time I took it, no matter what time or what substance I took it with. I talked it over with my doctor and she gladly switched me to another pill instead of a capsule.
YOUR THERAPIST IS NOT A MAGICIAN
Do not go to therapy expecting everything will be solved in one session or even within the session. Many of the issues that brought you to therapy will actually be solved outside of therapy. Think of it as a gym. You can workout and attend all the classes in the world, but does that mean you’ll automatically have the body of your dreams? Why not? Because you also have to eat right. Getting in shape is so much more than just exercising because diet plays a huge role in it. Also simply looking cute on an exercise machine and putting in the bare minimum in your workout will not yield desirable results. Therefore simply showing up to therapy will not work either.
Therapists often prescribe “homework”, which is where they expect you to practice a technique you learned in session in your life on your own time. The whole point of therapy is to learn the tools that you will then apply yourself in your life. It also requires cooperation from those in your life. If they don’t know/support that you’re in therapy, or what you’re trying to do, you already have some odds stacked against you, making your journey harder.
Whatever brought you here, remember that are loved and sometimes it takes more than venting to a friend, a change of scenery, or a new hairdo to make things right. If you’re seriously considering seeing a therapist, look up therapists in your area and do as much background checks as you can. The right one is waiting for you.
If you like this article, check out: https://www.harnessmagazine.com/psychologist-psychiatrist-lsw-which-one/