I remember in high school when loved ones recommended that I talk to someone. They needed to word it that way because the words counseling, therapy, psychologist all triggered one feeling – extreme anger. It put me in defense mode. I’m not crazy! Why would they recommend that to me? I remember in my previous long term relationship there were a lot of challenges as we were handling not only personal struggles, but also struggles with maintaining a healthy relationship. My boyfriend at the time suggested that we talk to someone. I’m 23 years old! What do I need to go to couples’ therapy for? I’m not married. If we are having this much trouble, we shouldn’t be together. I was so quick to judge and take offense to any thought of getting help that I desperately needed in both situations. I did end up attending therapy with my boyfriend at the time and it was very eye-opening for me. I’ve went to two other therapists since then and have benefited from each of them.
The first sessions were difficult. Explaining your entire life from the first memory you have from family and friend relationships, to daily routines, to traumatic events. I was fed questions during the whole story and would constantly wonder why it mattered. I was so surprised with the outcomes. I think the most important thing that I’ve learned through counseling is that my past is my toolkit. Each and every experience I have molds me into who I am. For instance, I get frustrated and hurt so easily when people are constantly on their phones when we are together (something I think I need to learn to work with as technology advances). Through sharing my life with my therapist, we were able to dig and learn that the root of that anger and that hurt is from the yearn for connection that I had as a child. Mind you, this isn’t a bash towards my family or any family – it’s something I learned about myself personally. When I was young, there was a television near the dining table. We didn’t always gather together for dinner, but when we did, we would simultaneously watch our favorite show. This was not the case every time, but that’s what came to mind when she asked me what dinner time was like with my family. In discussing my relationships with my family, it boiled down to a need for connection that I always felt, but never shared with anyone. I don’t think I even knew at the time that it’s what I needed, but as you grow you are able to look back at experiences like this with a different lens. You are able to see the bigger picture and sometimes pull conclusions from it like we did with my passion towards face-to-face connection. This is a tool I use everyday – I try to evaluate each situation with a curious mindset rather than pushing it under the rug and moving onwards. Sometimes I even find myself spending my therapy sessions discovering my own solutions by practicing this tool while my therapist listens and encourages me.
I have grown immensely through therapy and even when I am not processing a traumatic experience, I continue to go less frequently for maintenance. Sometimes I go to therapy with nothing in mind to talk about, but through discussion there are feelings that are exposed that I didn’t even know were hidden. Other times I get an hour of interaction with someone that I can relate to and there’s no harm in that. In my opinion, everyone can benefit from therapy. Every person has at one point or another leaned on someone. Think of it that way, but with a trained professional. An outsider that can give you different perspectives than the people you surround yourself with. As mentioned, I am with my third therapist currently. The first I decided to switch because it began as couples’ counseling with my ex and I wanted a ‘fresh canvas’. The second I needed to switch due to scheduling conflicts. The third, I am currently very happy with and works well with my schedule. The point of me explaining each is to show that it’s okay to discontinue seeing a therapist that you’re uncomfortable with or that you do not feel completely satisfied with. Therapists are learning how your brain works and using that information to help counsel you. If you aren’t getting the help you need, it should be communicated and you should feel comfortable in doing so – there is nothing wrong with that! We all have the best intentions in mind, or I like to hope so, and you both will benefit the most if you are getting the help you need. Don’t be afraid to go once, and don’t be afraid to try more than one!
I first tried therapy because it was recommended by my doctor. The first person I had was timid and quiet. I decided to try it again, but this time was another mismatch. She would talk more about herself and didn’t give me any solutions or feedback on how to help myself. Years later I met my current therapist. I love her and I felt a connection with her right off the bat. My first session with her I broke down crying (which is a big deal for me) she is wonderful. She gives me advice, projects, and stuff to read. Naturally, at first I thought therapy was a complete joke! I thought these people are just here to listen to you complain and get a pay check. When I met my current therapist I found hope. I actually enjoy talking to her because she understands me. She has taught me so much about myself and most importantly she has reassured me. She has taught me that self talk is important and to redirect myself. I see her once a week, sometimes once every two weeks depending on my schedule. I personally think when you find the right one counseling is a great thing! You have someone who isn’t in your family, friends, or work environment who can offer advice. – Jaclyn S.
I’ve been in therapy on and off since I was 14. Through therapy I’ve learned that the best way for me to deal with my problems is to talk about them in extreme detail and try to make sense of it. I often spend the entire session having a conversation with myself while I come to my own conclusions. My therapist guides me and reminds me to look at situations logically and objectively instead of the way my brain is skewing situations. Its the time of the week I learn the most about things I didn’t even know were on my mind – Kate F.
My perfectionist attitude caught up to me in the form of panic attacks. Trying to be a perfect wife, stepmom, daughter, employee, and human being is exhausting. My anxiety became so severe I couldn’t go into work. I couldn’t be in public or alone at home. All the perfection went out the window and I was only left with myself. I was forced to be my true imperfect self and open up to my family, friends, and coworkers. I received an immense amount of love and support even though I felt so undeserving for having shown my human side. That self pity turned into strength and I started pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I read about cognitive behavioral therapy and I started exposing myself to situations that made me feel most anxious. I’ve since started seeing an actual cognitive behavioral therapist and he has helped me navigate through it all. It’s been a couple of months since my lowest point and I’ve gone back to work, I can drive again, and I’m happy to be in public by myself. I’m feeling more at peace every day and inner peace is worth fighting for. – Mia Wood