I may be coming at this from a biased position, but I love therapy. I love the way it makes me feel as a practitioner, as well as a recipient (because yes, your therapist has their own therapist!). There’s nothing in the world that seems to equate to the relationship that can form between a counselor and their client; part teacher, part listener, part guide and part just plain human empathy!
I can’t talk enough about the benefits of therapy, and how it can be a life changing experience of learning, healing and growth. I want everyone to try it, at least once! There’s just something so sacred about a therapy session, that has this palpable power to allow vulnerability. I can’t recreate it in any other relationship (not that I’d want to!), and I just wish everyone could have those beautiful moments I see happening every day in my office.
And thank goodness this idea is catching on! Therapy used to be a four-letter word, whispered in gossip circle as if it was a personal weakness. “Susie is going to therapy,” they’d say over coffee, raising a knowing eyebrow and tutting about the sad state of someone’s life that they’d need to seek professional help. As if it meant you were ‘crazy’.
Fast forward to our current age, and we are normalizing mental health supports and I couldn’t be happier. Social media is now flooded with TikToks and Facebook Stories about coping strategies, and self-soothing techniques. We are encouraging one another to seek support without shame! It does my heart good to see others understanding the power of this amazing work that’s being done.
But every now and again, I’ll meet someone who still attends their first session with a sense of shame.
“I’ve never needed to ask for help like this before,” they say, avoiding eye contact. They feel guilt. And I see those old messages still living on. That therapy is for the weak. That it means you weren’t strong enough. That something is wrong with you.
I want to break down that stigma today and clear the air; that therapy is NOT about being broken or wrong, or not trying hard enough. And there’s plenty of reasons you may find therapy to be the ideal fit for you, but here’s my top 5.
1. A therapist is not a family member or a friend.
One major benefit of therapy is the unique role your therapist will play. This is a person who is impartial in your life. They are unbiased, a complete outsider in your world. They carry none of the baggage a friend or a family member might have, so when you explain factors of your life to them, they can see it with clear eyes. This means you will be able to have your story heard and taken at face value. Their support and advice to you won’t be weighed down by them being involved. Having a difficult relationship with your mother? You could speak to your sister about it, but your sister has her own unique take on the topic because of her existing relationship with your parents and with you. She might respond to you using that bias. And you might be worried about what you say in the moment, and whether it could come back to bite you in both those relationships too! When you speak with a therapist, what you say stays in the context of that therapist session. You won’t have to worry about it coming up while you’re doing dishes together an hour later.
2. It’s a relationship that is purely about you, for once.
Ever feel like when you need to reach out to talk to someone, you can’t stop thinking about how this might affect the other person? Everyone has their own life and their own struggles, so adding to their burden with your own emotional baggage might make us feel added guilt. So we might just choose not to say anything at all to protect those around us from having to deal with our additional stress. Well, your therapist is here purely for you. You don’t have to worry about what their life is like, whether they can emotionally handle the conversations. They’re trained to do this and their role is to support you, without you needing to think about reciprocity. For some of my clients, their one hour session a week is the only time they really have to focus on themselves! And they deserve that! So do you.
3. Your therapist is trained to help you move forward.
Some people say that therapy is ‘just talking’ and this might mean we are dwelling on our problems. Wrong! Counseling isn’t about standing still. It’s about acknowledging where we are right now, giving ourselves compassion for how we got here, and then taking a few steps forward without ignoring the journey we’ve already traveled. And your counselor’s job is to help guide you in the process, sometimes in such a fluid way that you don’t even realize you’re changing! What feels like just chatting and me asking my clients small questions is actually a delicate process of helping them get out of their own way and angle them towards the goals they’ve already set. And, the fun thing is, as the client, they don’t have to worry about the ‘how’ – that’s my job! So if you ever feel ‘stuck’, therapy might be just what you need to find a way to get things moving once again.
4. Your conversations are confidential.
The first thing you’ll talk with your therapist about if confidentiality; our sworn oath as mental health professionals to ensure all our conversations stay between us. There’s a few caveats to that (like threatening harm to yourself or others, or an order from a judge), but overall, your secret is safe with me. And that’s a good thing. How many times have you maybe told a friend something and worried that it’d be talked about around the water cooler later? Maybe you have a thought or a feeling that is frightening, shameful, or embarrassing… and you know you need to let it out, and have someone hear it, but no one else in your life feels safe enough (or maybe strong enough) to tell. Or maybe you aren’t even sure what you need to say – you just know you haven’t got a safe place to say it in and you feel very alone. Well, my office is a safe space for those words to come out.
5. You will learn skills you can use for a lifetime.
My famous line when I first meet someone is “I am trying to work myself out of a job”. I say this to mean that my goal as a therapist is help to teach my clients a vast array of strategies, skills and techniques that hopefully they can use every day for the rest of their lives. That could be meditation and breathing techniques to calm their bodies, or mindfulness and awareness skills to calm their minds. Maybe it’s ways to address negative thinking habits, or how to set healthy boundaries in the relationships. Sometimes it’s the little things, like a quote or a saying that resonates and brings you a sense of peace. Or it’s an explanation about how trauma affects the brain and that yes, your feelings are real and valid, and no, you are not going crazy, and yes, I believe you. My clients are encouraged to take notes and reflect on what works and what doesn’t work and hopefully by the time you’re ready to move on, you’re well prepared for the journey ahead.
If any of those reasons appeal to you, and maybe you’ve been waiting for a sign to start seeking out your own therapist… well this is it. Take the leap and reach out to a counselor in your area to begin to explore how therapy could help you. I can assure you, once you find the right therapist for you (don’t be discouraged if you don’t click right away!), you will be well on your way to feeling better.
If you’re still on the fence, reach out in the comments below! What’s stopping you from trying therapy? If you’ve already taken that step and tried, please share your successes with us! I’d love to hear from you!