If you don’t know me well enough yet, you should know that I’m a huge advocate of honesty and transparency. I’m the girl all about that ‘real talk,’ if you will. I shared with you my struggles with anxiety, but now I think it’s important to talk about what happened next. I’m going to delve into the therapy I did last year as a result of acknowledging my anxiety.
This post is not just about me. I’m writing this for the women and men out there who are struggling. I’m writing this for those who are afraid to seek help. From my heart, I want you to know you are not alone in this. There is help out there for you and it could be that seeking out a professional may be the best thing for you.
People seek therapy for a variety of reasons – mental health, relationship issues, and addictions, just to name a few. Sometimes, people seek out a professional just to talk through things in an unbiased environment. For me, I just needed someone to talk to and help with ways to cope with my anxiety sans medication. Medication may be what’s best for others, but I knew it wasn’t what was right for me. I just really wanted to learn skills that I could use in my every day to keep my anxiety at bay.
I was honestly terrified walking into that first appointment with my therapist. I didn’t know this woman whatsoever and all I knew was that her office was a stone’s throw away from my apartment and she was in my health insurance network. Despite what they tell you about therapy being a safe, non-judgmental environment, I still feared judgment. I even started to second guess if I even needed therapy. I began wondering if I was just overreacting about my anxiety and this was just how I was as a person. The thing was though, the more I heard myself talk in that initial session, I knew I was there for a valid reason. I had issues I needed to work on and I truly needed a professional’s perspective.
My sessions were always an hour long, but I easily could have always gone over those first few months. There was so much I wanted to talk about and work through. As time went on, things got better and my anxiety became more manageable. I was employing the coping skills I was learning in my sessions and really started to notice a difference. Eventually, I got to a point where I wondered what the hell I was going to talk about in my upcoming session. It was then I knew therapy had come to an end for me. I no longer felt the need to keep going.
As I look back in hindsight, I can’t even begin to tell you how beneficial it was for me to do those six months of therapy. I gained so much additional perspective and learned more about myself and my family’s dynamic than I ever could have done on my own. Sometimes, I even catch myself in those moments of anxiousness and racing thoughts and can hear what my therapist’s response would be. Funny how that works, right? My point is, therapy didn’t cure me. It may not officially ‘cure’ you either. While I still struggle with anxiety almost every day, I do have the knowledge and tools now to practice what I learned in therapy. That is invaluable and why I encourage you to try it if you are seeking answers.
If you’re thinking about therapy and aren’t sure where to get started, have no fear! I have a couple of tips I learned that may help.
Don’t Be Ashamed
If there’s anything I’ve learned about therapy, it’s that there is nothing to be ashamed about. I think a lot of people refuse to even think about therapy because they assume it’s for the weak. They assume it’s for people who can’t figure out their problems on their own. Ladies and gentlemen, let me just say, that is so unbelievably wrong. If anything, I think it’s those who are strong who seek therapy. Being vulnerable and raising your hand for help is what shows true strength. And ultimately, you are only going to learn from and grow through the experience of therapy.
So, I really think it needs to be said that people who seek therapy should be applauded and commended. It takes so much courage to admit you may need help. It takes even more courage to make that phone call, make that appointment, and make it through that door and onto that couch. Let’s kick the stigma to the curb and embrace those who are trying to better themselves.
Find the Right Therapist for You
Finding a therapist you can connect with and trust is critical to your therapy. You may have to try out a few until you find the right one. I feel lucky because I really liked my therapist off the bat and stayed with her throughout all my sessions. She was so warm and inviting from the start. As I got to know her better, I truly felt like she was on my side with everything I talked to her about. Find a therapist who is going to be on your side and pull for you. Find one who not only listens, but also challenges you. If you walk out of your first session uneasy and unsure if you clicked with your therapist, don’t be discouraged. It’s okay to go back to the drawing board. It’s better to be patient and find the right therapist for you than pay and go through therapy with someone you don’t trust. You’ll get there!
In your therapy sessions, I learned you’re really the one in the driver’s seat. At least in my sessions, I found myself doing most of the talking. It was a time to bring all of my thoughts to the table and talk through them. This was hard for me to get used to at first because I’m usually the listener and the one asking questions when it comes to conversations. To help me through this feeling of awkwardness, I decided I needed to come to my sessions prepared. Before each session, I would write down what exactly I wanted to talk about that day. I also wrote down questions for my therapist so I could understand her perspective on what I was going through. I recommend doing this and bringing your list into the sessions to use as a reference. Coming prepared will hopefully calm your nerves too!
Be Vulnerable & Open to Change
Once you fully trust your therapist, you have to bring down your barriers and open up about who you are as a person and what your struggles are. This should go without saying, but therapy isn’t going to help anyone if you’re not able to be truly vulnerable as to why you’re there. Be open to the process and change will happen.
There will be plenty of moments of intentional listening too. Your therapist will take over at points during the session and respond to you with thoughts and suggestions (and maybe even some homework). It was in those moments where I really learned more about myself. You may be told things you don’t want to hear. You may be asked to do things you don’t want to do. But, the most important part of therapy is taking everything to heart and really digging deep to how you can better yourself. Sometimes it takes going through the uncomfortable to grow. Listen, learn and take notes.
Do Your Homework
While your therapist is giving feedback, you’re likely going to get some follow-up homework weaved in there. Every therapist is different, but mine really believed that therapy didn’t end after I walked out the door. She gave me tasks to do for the week until my next session to really work on coping skills for my anxiety. It was active work that I really had to set time aside to do, but I believe that’s where most of my success came from. Implement what your therapist tells you to do. Work hard on what needs to be done. You may just go into your next session feeling proud of what you were able to accomplish.
Or, you may go in feeling defeated and feeling like you’re not making any progress. Don’t worry – your therapist will understand and encourage you to try again or try something different that works better for you. Therapy is not easy and it takes a lot of work. But the point is, you are trying your best in therapy and that’s what counts. You took the initiative to feel better about yourself and your life and that is always something to be proud of.
Does this article convince you to seek a therapist? Do you still have fears or concerns? Do you currently go to therapy and has it helped you? If you’re willing, please leave your thoughts in the comments or shoot me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to keep our conversation private.
Kelly Nash is a Chicago-based writer, career coach, speaker and founder of Lipstick & Ink®. She also works full-time in technology as a Success Manager at Salesforce and has over 10 years of digital marketing experience. Kelly has been featured in Thrive Global, Chicago Tribune, International Association of Women, General Assembly, Salesforce, and SheFactor. She’s fueled by black coffee, sunshine, a good ink pen, and a bold lip.