The Trouble of Talking
What Exactly is Therapy?
By definition, therapy is simply "a treatment intended to relieve or heal a disorder." Like most things in life, it's a tad more complex than that. Therapy is there to help you understand yourself.To give a little insight into why you think the way you do.
It's helped countless amounts of people, myself included, so lets go through some of the anxieties and assumptions people make about therapy.
Isn't Therapy a Last Resort?
No. That is a very dangerous way of thinking, and that's most likely where the stigma comes from. Waiting and waiting until you are almost to the brink of collapse is not healthy.
I've said it before and I'll say it again - mental health is not something that you may not have - like physical health, you have mental health. It requires up keeping, proper food consumption, and maintenance for a healthy life.
What if I Don't Have a Diagnosis?
Therapy isn't just for those with a diagnosable mental illness, but for anyone who is willing to openly discuss their fears and worries. There seems to be this idea that therapy makes you weak. That everyone should be able to deal with all their thoughts and emotions with no outside help. This is an extremely negative and unhealthy mindset to have. That thought process can lead to angry outbursts, lack of self-confidence, depressive episodes, or any number of issues. That being said, going to therapy and discussing your issues isn't easy.
I'm Terrified of Talking to People Casually, Let Alone in a Tense Setting. What if I Don't Want to Talk?
That's normal and perfectly fine. What's most important is that you be as open and honest as you are comfortable with. Getting the full benefits of therapy require an amount of trust and vulnerability that can feel downright strange to some folks. It's a matter of who you are.
An important thing to remember is to not lie. If the therapist asks you a question you don't feel comfortable answering, tell them. Try not to lie, or be dismissive. That can be very challenging to some people, but a therapist will get a lot more information knowing what your boundaries and anxieties are.
If you feel nervous just talking to them, let them know.
What if I Hate My Therapist?
Some people might not like their therapist. While it's unfortunate, it's completely understandable. Sometimes two people just can't mesh well. The human mind is infinitely complex, and no single therapist can be a good fit for everyone. This is another case of being as honest as you can. If you don't think the therapist is working, tell them. Have a discussion. Maybe you need a specialized therapist. Whatever the reason, they will understand.
Isn't my Privacy in Risk of Being Violated?
There's something called confidentiality. It's the same as with your family doctor - they're not legally allowed to disclose any information to other people. It's the same with therapy. Anything that is talked about is completely confidential.
The only time a therapist would ever give out information would be if you admitted that you intend on or have committed a violent or harmful crime. At that point, the therapist is legally obligated to inform the police.
Not if you have thoughts of harm, as those thoughts aren't what make people dangerous. I want to make this point clear, as I have OCD, and my thoughts would become very violent at times, making me feel scared and guilty.
The best thing the any therapist did is tell me "Thoughts are not actions." If you have violent imagery in your mind, a therapist will not inform the police. They will help you understand what those thoughts are, and help you overcome them.
What Can I Expect From a First time Visit?
It'll depend on person to person. Therapy isn't easy, it requires work. It's up to you and your therapist to figure out what works for you. Just know that therapy is patient driven, so it can be challenging if you don't feel good enough to get better. It gets cyclical, and that's a good point to bring up with the therapist. Ask questions, be honest, and be prepared to challenge yourself.
How Can Talking Help Someone Overcome Social Anxieties?
There are many degrees of social anxiousness, and the best way to treat it is exposure. That's quite a scary prospect for people who have social anxieties. The first thing to do is ask yourself "Do I want to become better?". Not "Do I think I can become better?", because you can. Everyone has the power to change themselves for the better. If you don't believe in yourself, find someone else who believes in you, and believe in them.
Ultimately therapy is patient driven. If someone is so scared of social interactions that they don't leave the house, it can be very challenging to even see a therapist. Because they don't have the courage to see a therapist, they feel inadequate. This feeling then causes more anxiety. As with most anxieties, it becomes a vicious, cyclical monster of self doubt and fear.
What Would Overcoming Social Anxiety Be Like?
Let's say there's someone with anxieties that prevent them from leaving their house. Let's call her Tricia. An at-home therapist is hired, and after talking to Tricia, it's determined she's suffering from crippling self doubt and thought distortions, assuming everyone will judge her all the time. It took a couple sessions to build up trust, for the therapist to show Tricia that they're here to help.
A first step of exposure might be to sit on the front lawn and have a nice chat. Nothing intense, just a talk about whatever you like. After a few times, they may suggest going to a park during off hours when there aren't many people there and sitting on a bench and chatting.
After getting use to the park being mostly empty, they might suggest coming during peak times and doing the same thing. Then later on still, maybe a trip to a mall, or a local coffee shop.
Tricia slowly but steadily climbs the ladder, getting more and more comfortable with going outside. She won't always be happy, sometimes she won't come out of her house regardless. But nobody's perfect, and that too is an important lesson. Sometimes you fail.
In today's world, failure is seen so negatively that the thought of failure can stop people from trying in the first place. The therapist doesn't scold or dislike Tricia because she failed. Therapists are there for support, to help you achieve your goals. Even the most extroverted person has days of solitude.
Other Types of Therapy
There are many different forms of therapy that cater to specific mental patterns. There's Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Interpersonal Therapy (IPT), Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), just to name a few.
There's also specialists for different mental illness'. OCD, Depression, Bipolar, Anorexia, any number of disorders will likely have a specialist who will be able to help.
Finding the right therapist is key, and it's important to take your comfort into account. Maybe you feel more reticent around males, so you would want a female therapist. That's fine, do not feel badly about it.
Maybe you only feel comfortable around someone of a certain ethnicity, or certain age. People will feel guilty, thinking they're racist or sexist just because they can't feel relaxed around just anyone. That's incorrect. Whatever the reason, make sure you try and find the best possible therapist. Try and be honest with yourself.
I won't get into all the details, but having been through therapy myself, I can say I've had a positive experience. Being raised by a pair of child and youth workers certainly helped, as a lot of progress was made during the first session alone, simply because I was taught to be one hundred percent open and clear with any and all therapists.
I won't lie, that first hour I was in therapy was scary at times, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried a whole lot. Talking to someone who could help me understand myself in a way nobody else was able to has helped me grow into a more confident and caring person. Not only to myself, but to those around me.
I'm lucky enough to have the mental health industry all around me as I grew up. Some people don't have that luxury and feel the need to distrust a system they don't completely understand. It's unfortunate, but that's how progress works. You take a problem and overcome it.
I hope that I've made a good case for therapy, as it's helped many people, and it breaks my heart to see it get a bad wrap. Don't just trust me, look around! Lots of people have success with therapy, and the ones who don't usually have one bad experience and say the whole thing is stupid. So at least entertain the thought, do some research, and see what kind of help is around you.
Thanks for reading, and remember - you can become a better you!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.