We all go through emotionally trying times at various points in our lives—some more than others. Whether your troubles feel big or small, and whether they’re current or in the past, you might consider therapy to help you process your feelings.
Talk therapy—also known as psychotherapy—can be beneficial for many people, but it can be difficult to figure out whether you should go. You might be discouraged by the stigma around therapy or the cost and time commitment required. You or your loved ones might think you can process your problems without professional help.
In reality, no matter how close someone is to you, though, they don’t occupy your headspace. Nobody understands your mind and soul like you do. If you feel like therapy is worth trying, go for it!
Of course, you may have talked to people who went to therapy but didn’t find it helpful. And that’s okay: Not everybody winds up needing therapy at a given point in their life. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider it—after all, there’s a lot to gain.
How does therapy help?
Talk therapy helps you by giving you space to process your feelings, thoughts, and experiences with a professional. Have you ever had an “a-ha!” moment when discussing your feelings with a friend? That’s one of the things that happens in therapy: When we talk about something, we reflect on our behavior and thoughts, and sometimes things click. We become aware of patterns and make connections we couldn’t see before.
Therapy isn’t just good for your emotional health, though. It can be an investment in improving your physical health, too. Mental wellness often has a positive impact on our physical wellness while stress—an issue therapy often addresses—has a negative effect on the body. Positivity can improve your health and your immune system.
Kinds to Consider
Different types of therapy address issues using different methods. Cognitive behavioral therapy, for example, is an effective means of addressing mood disorders as it aims to help clients address and alter unhealthy patterns and behavior.
There are plenty of other kinds of therapy, too, including art therapy, play therapy, animal-assisted therapy, hypnotherapy, group therapy, biofeedback, and more. Therapists usually list the kinds of therapy they offer and the schools of thought that inform their practice on their websites. Exploring approaches in and of itself can be fascinating and empowering and will invite you to imagine what benefits you might afford yourself if you commit to pursuing therapy.
Do I really need a therapist?
I’ve talked myself out of going to therapy many times because I wasn’t having a crisis. My problems didn’t feel bad enough to necessitate therapy, so I avoided it.
The problem with this approach? Therapy isn’t only about managing a crisis. It’s also about maintaining good mental health so that you avoid the next potential crisis altogether. Even when you’re functioning well, you might have underlying issues such as anxiety, past trauma, or depression.
Think about it: We’re told to visit our dentist twice a year even if we have no noticeable problems with our teeth. Similarly, seeing a therapist can help you identify and work on issues before they become emergencies.
Many people feel that they aren’t mentally ill—or aren’t mentally ill enough—to need therapy. Truthfully, though, you don’t have to be mentally ill to legitimate scheduling an appointment or even developing an ongoing relationship with a therapist. We can all benefit from talking to a professional sometimes.
You might feel that you can work through your issues alone or rely on your family and friends to help you. Having a support network of people who care about you is important, as is working through problems on your own. Both of those are good mental health tools, but they can’t replace having a trained professional share informed insight and introduce you to new techniques you can use to care for yourself and interact healthfully with others. Likewise, a therapist can’t replace introspection or a good support network!
Also important to keep in mind: Relying on friends and family to work through emotional issues isn’t always sustainable. If your friends are having a rough time, they might struggle to help you. Therapists also offer a relatively objective perspective since they don’t know you or your loved ones—or your work situation or family history—personally. They will approach your concerns from the background of their training and experience, meaning they bring something to the table that you won’t have access to otherwise—no matter how supportive and diverse your circle of support is.
How to Find a Good Therapist
Deciding to go to therapy is a great start—but many people are unsure of how to find a therapist who can meet their needs. Before committing to therapy with a specific healthcare provider, ask yourself what you want out of therapy and who you’d feel comfortable talking to.
You might prefer to speak to someone of the same gender, sexual orientation, race, or cultural background as you. As a bisexual person, I prefer to speak to queer-identifying therapists because they’re more likely to understand how tough it is to deal with homophobia.
Ask for referrals from trusted friends and family members, or your GP or another medical practitioner might be able to refer you to someone. You can also look online for referrals and reviews of local therapists.
Advocating for Yourself and Thinking Outside the Box
Meeting with a therapist once doesn’t mean you have to see them again. If you feel like the therapist isn’t a good fit—even after one or two or three sessions—it’s totally okay to look for another therapist. If you feel comfortable, explain what’s working and what isn’t. Be bold and ask the therapist you’ve been seeing to refer you to someone else. Their professional network may include someone who would be a better fit.
If you find a great therapist but you can’t afford their fees, let them know. Many therapists offer discounts or work on a sliding fee scale.
If you’re struggling to find a good therapist in your town, you can even consider online therapy. Thanks to modern technology, it’s now possible for you to talk to a trained professional thousands of miles away. Take a look at online therapy options like Talkspace and BetterHelp. While some people prefer face-to-face interactions, online therapy can be a convenient alternative. In many cases, it’s also more affordable than in-person appointments.
The idea of going to therapy can be scary, but it doesn’t need to be! Deciding to go to therapy can be one of the smartest and best decisions you can make.