For years, as I battled depression, I’d tell my husband, “okay, maybe I do need help. I should probably see someone.” And for years, I put it off. It felt like admitting defeat. It felt like admitting I was a crazy-pants, cranky, frumpy mom who didn’t have any of her ducks in row. It felt like telling the world I was broken and damaged.
I worried about being judged. I worried about sharing intimate parts of my life with a complete stranger. I worried that once I started I’d have to go forever. I worried about how much it would cost and whether I’d be able to find someone I liked and felt comfortable talking to.
And guess what?
It all turned out fine.
So, I decided to address some of those concerns and see if I can put your mind at ease.
Lie #1: My friends and family will look at me differently and worry about me.
Truth: No one will know you see a therapist unless you tell them yourself.
You are completely in control of the conversation. No one will put up a billboard or send out a newsletter informing everyone you’ve ever met that you are now seeking counseling. They will not be able to tell just by looking at you either. If anything, they may say, “what’s different? You seem happier.” And is that really such a bad thing?No one will know you see a therapist unless you tell them yourself. Click To Tweet
You get to choose who you tell and when. And for those few you choose to confide in, chances are you are telling them because you already know they will understand, sympathize, or cheer you on. You also get to choose how much you tell them and how you approach it. If you bring it up as though you are confessing something terrible, the reaction will be different than if you confidently mention that you have found new ways to be happy and less stressed.
Personal Confession: Up until this moment, writing this post, I had only told my husband, sister, and parents. None of them freaked out. None of them asked why.
I do realize it may be more difficult for you and that everyone has a different family dynamic. But again, you don’t have to tell them. Even if they are family.
I encourage you to find someone in your life that you can confide in though. Having a friend or family member who knows what you are going through and supports you will actually help you to grow and improve faster and more effectively. They can also help keep you accountable and on track with your goals, or step in when you need help. For example, watching your kids when you need a break, or when you have a doctor or therapy appointment.
Lie #2: I’ll have to explore my childhood and share every intimate detail of my life.
Truth: You decide what you talk about.
Your therapist does not have a hidden agenda. They will not poke and prod until you cry, or make you talk about things before you’re comfortable, or shame you in any way.
They genuinely care about you and want to see you succeed. You’ll probably discuss some goals and they’ll follow up on those and suggest things you can work on at home. They’ll probably give you information to read or recommend books.
They’ll ask you what you’ve been struggling with. They’ll listen carefully. They may ask questions to help guide you to further understanding and “aha” moments. They might even tell you that everything you have been thinking and feeling is completely justified and normal. They will provide tools and coping strategies and sometimes offer advice.
Lie #3: I’ll have to talk to a complete stranger.
Truth: It’s a lot more like talking to your best friend.
Okay, your therapist is a complete stranger. At least at first. But you’ll be amazed at how quickly that changes.
A therapist is basically someone who has been highly trained in the art of listening, understanding, and problem-solving. I guarantee you won’t enter the office to find a stuffy old man who stares at you too hard and does nothing but nod and say, “and how does that make you feel?” Thank you Hollywood for that annoying and somewhat scary image.
It gets easier and easier to talk as you see progress and develop a friendship. I leave therapy feeling so good about myself and so ready to conquer the world, that it’s almost addicting. I can’t wait to go back. Seriously.
Lie #4: Therapists are way too expensive.
Truth: Your insurance probably covers it, and if not, there are other options.
I worried for a long time about how we would fit counseling into the budget if/when I finally decided to go. My husband looked into his employee benefits and learned that if I contacted EAP, which is his company’s Employee Assistance Program, he and I are both completely covered for a limited number of sessions. Yep, it’s totally FREE.
I don’t know the details about this for every company, but I recommend you start there. Ask your employer if you have an EAP or other program in place to help employees.
It was as easy as a phone call. They explained the benefits to me and found a counseling office near me that was covered, and all I had to do after that was make the appointment. The employee assistance representative sent a referral and all the other info needed directly to the office. It was fast and super simple.
Alternatively, some companies have on-site assistance, where you can talk to someone in the same building you work in. And others have counseling benefits through your insurance provider. Since every company and each insurance plan is different, I can’t provide direct links, but don’t be afraid to ask!
If that still doesn’t work, ask a local religious leader. They have connections. I am LDS, so the one program that I am aware of is through LDS Family Services. They offer all types of counseling and even addiction recovery, but you do need a referral from your bishop or stake president. I am sure that other religious organizations have similar resources and programs in place.
Lie #5: Therapy is only for suicidal or seriously disturbed people.
Truth: Everyone can benefit from therapy on their own level.
Periodically, your general care physician has you come in for a check-up or physical, right? But they don’t check your emotional health unless you bring it up. Your brain is the single most important part of your body. If it’s not functioning properly, nothing else will either. It also has about a million different parts doing about a million different jobs. When you get sick, your doctor can prescribe rest or an antibiotic. When your weight affects your physical health, your doctor talks to you about exercise and nutrition.
Why then are we so resistant to take care of our brains? Why do we tell ourselves to push through it, or get over it, or be tougher, or “it’s just in my head?”There is no shame in seeing a therapist. Click To Tweet
Think of therapy as a mental check-up. It’s a place to evaluate what you can do to take better care of your brain and your emotions. You can learn how to better deal with stress and the importance of balancing work and rest. You can learn how to improve or strengthen your relationships.
Take the phrase, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and throw it in the garbage. Our bodies need constant care to function at their best level. So do our brains, our emotions, and our relationships. One couple I know and admire attends a marriage workshop every year, not because there is something “wrong” with their marriage, but because their marriage is important to them.
No, I’m not saying that every happy, healthy, well-adjusted person in the world needs to immediately find a therapist. But I am saying that there is no shame in it. And that to be a happy, healthy, well-adjusted person, you need to spend some time on personal development on an on-going basis. Think of it as regular exercise and a vital component in your overall health.