Have you ever been to therapy? If not, would you consider going?
If either of these questions made you uncomfortable, you’re not alone. Therapy is losing some of the stigma it once had as a growing number of people are coming to understand its benefits — but still, deciding to seek a therapist’s help can feel like a taboo subject for some people.
The truth is that there’s absolutely no shame in working with a therapist, if you decide that it’s right for you. Mental illness is much more common than many of us imagine — if you struggle with anxiety, depression, or any other disorder, a skilled and compassionate therapist can do wonders for you. Their guidance can help set you on a path towards healing, recovering, and becoming the best version of you that you can be.
But contrary to what many people believe, you don’t need to have a mental illness to benefit from therapy. Even healthy, neurotypical people sometimes go to therapists for help with navigating challenging times, developing coping skills, and gaining perspective on their lives.
My Pathway to Therapy
Every person’s path in life is unique, and all of us who find our way to therapy will tell you a different story of how we got there. Many of us find our way to it when we realize we need it — but for some of us, that realization can take a long time.
I was in my early twenties and had struggled with bouts of anxiety and depression throughout my life. Occasionally, these episodes became debilitating; most of the time, they weren’t great, but they weren’t terrible enough to send me running for help.
I was relatively functional as a teenager and young adult, but the truth is that I probably waited longer than I should have to start therapy. The main reason I didn’t try it sooner was because of my own preconceptions about what going to therapy would mean. I thought it would mean that I was “crazy” or broken — it would mean that there was something wrong with me. That couldn’t have been further from the truth, but it was what I believed at the time.
Looking back on that time in my life, I realize I could have used the wisdom of someone more grounded than I was. Someone who could compassionately listen to me and offer actionable advice on how I could start to heal, how I could learn to dig myself out of the dark holes I sometimes fell into.
I finally decided to seek help, and while I didn’t find my “person” right away, I’m glad I started searching then. I worked with a number of different therapists over the years, and I gained a lot of wisdom over that time as well as some skills that have served me throughout my life.
How Therapy Helped Me Grow and Made My Life Better
Every therapist I’ve worked with has left their own imprint on my life. I didn’t stick with all of them for very long, but they all had different approaches and their own unique insights to offer. Some of them resonated more strongly with me than others, but all were valuable and worth taking in.
One of the most fascinating things about psychology, social work and counseling is that they’re filled with varying theories and schools of thought. There’s no one “right” way to look at the human mind, because our minds are so infinitely complex — and, in some ways, mysterious. There is much we don’t know and continue to learn. But every therapist, and every school of thought, can usually offer at least a few grains of wisdom and truth.
There’s a special type of bond that you form with these healers, and that relationship in itself is part of what makes therapy so profound and impactful. But on top of that, therapy can teach you new ways of thinking, doing, and being — and although the shift sometimes happens slowly and in small increments, the change can be profound.
Different therapists I’ve seen have offered practical life advice and support during times when I truly needed it. They helped me center myself, gave me invaluable resources, and provided me with tools for working with my anxious thoughts. But the most impactful experience I ever had in therapy was my most recent one — about a year ago.
The catalyst, unfortunately, was an incredibly traumatic event in my life. I came in contact with this therapist through a nonprofit organization, and she was one of the most compassionate, insightful, brilliant people I have ever met. She was trained in EMDR therapy, which is an incredible modality for working through trauma — plus she specialized in working with anxious, sensitive personality types. She was exactly who I needed, and I made a huge amount of progress from my work with her.
The thing is, though, healing work is not always a walk in the park. Actually, sometimes, it unearths some pretty uncomfortable — if not downright terrifying — stuff. Sometimes, the issues that come up might be things that you’d rather not face. But these tender and triggering subjects often hold the key to your freedom. Part of the point of therapy is to have a safe space where you can explore these parts of yourself.
By moving through challenge and difficulty, you begin to realize you’re stronger than you thought. You learn that you’re not defined by your thoughts or feelings, and that you have more power within than you believed was possible. And slowly but surely, you begin to transform into a wiser and more resilient version of yourself.
What a Great Therapist Can Do for You
There are so many ways that therapy can enrich our lives. Among other things, a great therapist can:
- Bring greater awareness to what’s going on inside of ourselves
- Help us understand how we became who we are and the journey we’ve been on
- Provide insight into other people and their actions
- Offer wisdom and perspective based on their knowledge and life experience
- Assist us in changing thought patterns and beliefs that aren’t serving us
- Empower us to take greater responsibility for ourselves
- Give us tools for coping with serious life challenges such as divorce, death, or trauma
I do feel it’s important to emphasize here that therapy is a two-way street. That is, our own willingness to show up and take responsibility for our growth and healing is every bit as important as the therapist we choose. We might think we can just show up and allow someone else to “fix” us and our lives, but that ain’t how it works.
To really benefit from therapy, you need to be invested and ready to do the work. Your therapist can provide you all kinds of valuable knowledge, tools, and insight, but in order for them to have any effect on your life, you have to use them.
Changing the ingrained thinking patterns that you’ve probably learned over many years takes active work, persistence, and patience. There’s no “quick fix” for that. But if you’re willing to actively participate in your own recovery, you can achieve amazing things.
Thoughts in Closing
I’m only one person, and I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can tell you that therapy has helped my life in innumerable ways — and if you’re open to the idea, it could more than likely change your life, too.
Most therapists get into this line of work because they truly want to help others and be of service. If you’re at all curious and would like to get more information about therapy, reach out to Therapeasy today — they’re an organization that can help match you with a great therapist who can provide the support you may need. It may be scary to take that first step — but I bet you’ll be glad you did.
Amber Carlson [ Freelance Writer, Copywriter and Blogger ]
Amber is a freelance writer who holds a BA in psychology and writes about niche areas such as health, wellness, self-improvement, and travel. She hopes to go back to school in the near future to pursue a journalism degree. While not writing, she enjoys painting, drawing, playing music, and geeking out about plants. You can view more of her work on her blog or Medium page.