by Alyson Pearson, LISW
- Therapy is not just for extreme issues, it’s helpful for any life challenge
“I don’t need therapy, I’m not crazy!”I’m sure you’ve heard this before. This stigma is being challenged, but unfortunately it’s still there. You may be surprised to find that you already know many people in therapy; it could be your neighbor, your teacher, your doctor, or your family member. People go to therapy to process trauma, to deal with an unhealthy relationship, to process a death or loss, to gain coping skills for depression and anxiety, and just to process the ups and downs that we all face in life. It takes strength and courage to identify challenges and seek out help. If you’re reading this because you are seeking out therapy; congratulations for taking a courageous step to becoming a healthier, happier you!
2. Check with your insurance to find out coverage before you have your first session
In a perfect world, paying for therapy wouldn’t have to be a concern. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Most insurance plans do cover therapy, but the copays, coinsurance, and deductible are specific to each plan. Not all therapists are credentialed with every insurance company, so it’s important to see who is covered by your specific plan. Without insurance, therapy sessions may cost anywhere from $50 to $250. If you don’t have insurance, you may want to find a clinician or agency that has a sliding scale fee.
3. Don’t be afraid to shop around in order to find the best fit
Research shows time and again that the relationship between a client and their therapist is one of the biggest factors in the outcome of therapy. Though we often think that therapy is simply sitting on a couch describing dreams, while a therapist nods and writes notes, that is not the case. Each therapist has their own style, their own methods of therapy, and their own very unique personality. If a therapist doesn’t match what you’re looking for, find someone new! Of course, give it some time to see how it progresses, but don’t quit therapy altogether just because you don’t like the style of one therapist. Also, don’t be afraid to bring it up and even ask for a referral to someone who may be a better fit. A good therapist will not be offended by this, and will be more than willing to help.
4. It’s challenging and brings up difficult emotions, but it’s so worth it
One of the most important journeys you’ll ever take is the journey inwards, and the most important person to truly know is yourself. The hardest part about this is being able to take a good look at the tough stuff; the stuff you don’t put on social media, the stuff you ignore and hope it will go away, the stuff you chalk up to, “It’s in the past.”You may feel uncomfortable when you get to that place, and that’s okay. Learning to sit in that discomfort and processing it is the only way through it. There’s light on the other side of that darkness, but you have to keep going.
5. Your therapist can be a compassionate coach or guide, the true change starts and always exists within ourselves
Everything that you need is already inside of you. The weight of life often covers it up, and feelings like guilt and shame can blind us, but the goodness that we are each born with is still there. Your therapist is there to guide you, support you, challenge you, and help you become the person you already are. Because of that, your therapist cannot change you and do the work for you. Taking what you learn in therapy and using it every day in the other 99% of your life is where it really counts. Sitting in session for 50 minutes every week cannot make changes in your life, you have to do that, and you can.
6. There is no set timeframe; you may find that your issue is worked through within a few visits, or ongoing therapy may be best for you
The goal of therapy is to get you out of therapy. Though therapists enjoy the time in session and enjoy the process of helping you heal, their goal is to empower you to no longer need them. The timeframe of that is different for everyone and there is no right amount of sessions. Some people may find that they can talk through an issue and make a plan to move forward in just a couple sessions, and some people need ongoing therapy over years in order to stay on track. Oftentimes, therapy starts out weekly or every other week, and may decrease to monthly sessions as you progress.
7. Have some goals in mind at your first session, and let your therapist know what your hoping to get in therapy
Your therapist will help you create specific goals, but it’s helpful to know what you want out of therapy before you get there. You are in charge, and what you want to get out of therapy is the most important thing. Yes, your therapist is the expert on therapy and modalities, but you are the expert on you.
8. Be honest
It’s tough to be honest, especially when it brings up feelings of guilt or shame. Trust me when I say that your therapist won’t judge you, but they can’t fully help you if they don’t know all the details. Just as your medical doctor needs to know all your health symptoms and medication to help you, so does your therapist. It’s easy to leave out details of substance use, thoughts about self harm, unhealthy relationships, or past choices, but it’s not helpful in your progress. Your therapist can handle it without judgement, and help you move through it.
9. Allow your therapist to nudge you out of your comfort zone
Part of true growth is being challenged. A good therapist will help you understand the things you may be doing that are leading you away from the type of life you want to live. This can be hard to hear, but if you have gotten to the point where you found the therapist who fits with you, this will be done in a helpful and not hurtful way. Open yourself up to the possibility that you can handle change, and you’re worth the positive outcome.
10. You are a whole, complete, and amazing wonder that lives light years beyond any diagnostic label you may receive as part of your therapeutic journey
You may have depression, but you are not depression. You may have anxiety, but you are not anxiety. You may have Bipolar Disorder, but you are not Bipolar Disorder. A diagnosis is there to help us fit the symptoms together and find the right treatment, it is not there to describe who you are as a person. You are a mixture of your history, your roots, your unique personality, your intrinsic good, your beliefs, your values, and the truth you already hold inside of you. Therapy can help you uncover all of those, and lead you on a journey towards a full and meaningful life.
If you’re ready to start this journey, trust me, it gets better.