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I don't know if I need to go to therapy? Why go to therapy and what to expect once you're there.

Updated: Nov 12, 2019

I don’t know if I need to go to therapy.

Why go to therapy and what exactly happens once I’m there?

Going to therapy has gotten a bad rap for a long time. There are loads of misconceptions about what it means to go to therapy, which has led to a negative stigma, and people avoiding getting treatment that could seriously improve their well-being. The truth is, I think plenty of people are starting to understand all of these misconceptions and false stigmas about therapy.

Unfortunately, it still hasn’t entirely shaken its bad reputation. Perhaps people can’t get the image out of their mind of lying on a couch and talking about their feelings whilst a relative stranger nods and jots down notes on a pad. Or perhaps a few controversial methods of therapy have given enough pause that folks don’t want to take the risk. Not to mention the labeling. What do you do once someone has put pen to paper and “diagnosed” you? Do you have to disclose that to people? To whom? Does it become an irreversible part of who you are? What if you go and create something out of nothing and end up feeling worse than before?

These are all very valid concerns, and I would like the opportunity to dispel some of these doubts.

First let me start with a few noteworthy mentions about what you can generally expect in therapy:

* You don’t have to stay with a therapist if you’re not feeling it. That’s to say, you aren’t (unless your therapy is mandated and even then, you should have a least a few options) entering into a contractual agreement. If the therapist or their therapy methods don’t seem like a good fit, you can walk away and look for someone else.

* You don’t always receive a diagnosis. Talk to your therapist about this if you have any concerns. Diagnoses aren’t always bad, but you don’t always qualify for one either. Often times insurance companies require a diagnosis so that you qualify for treatment. Feel free to discuss this with your therapist if you are unsure.

* You don’t necessarily have to see your therapist every week. Depending on the severity of your situation, you may not need to meet with your therapist weekly. Most often this is how you will start therapy, but as you progress you and your therapist can discuss the need for frequency of visits. This can free up some of your time, and if you are paying out of pocket it can help keep therapy more appropriate for your budget.

* You can ask about your therapist’s qualifications to treat you. Did you know that therapist isn’t a protected title by law in most states like Psychologist or Psychiatrist? Anyone can call themselves a therapist, although many professional therapists need to be licensed to practice. Most therapists will have their qualifications listed as letters after their names (such as degrees or licensure) on their websites or business cards. Don’t hesitate to ask them to explain or elaborate their qualifications to offer you treatment.

* You don’t have to have a serious mental illness to go to therapy. Lots of people see therapists without having a severe mental health deficit. People who are going through life transitions, struggling with relationships, feeling overwhelmed by emotions or life circumstances, and lots of other reasons.

That last point is a great place to move on to some very good reasons to seek therapy. These reasons include some potentially medical reasons, such as indicators of a severe mental illness, and some non-medical reasons. The reasons listed below are all valid and certainly not all inclusive.

Potentially medical reasons:

1) You’re experiencing unexpected mood swings

2) You’re undergoing a big change

3) You’re having harmful thoughts

4) You’re withdrawing from things that used to bring you joy

5) You’re feeling alone or isolated

6) You’re using substance to cope with issues in your life

7) You suspect you might have a serious mental health condition

8) You feel like you’ve lost control

9) Your relationships feel strained

10) Your sleeping patterns are off

11) You just feel like you need to talk to someone

Non-medical reasons.

1) You won’t hear things like “it’s gonna be okay, I know how you feel, you will get over it”

2) You get an entire hour to talk about whatever you want guilt-free

3) Saying things out loud helps you understand them in a different way

4) A therapist helps you develop insight and coping skills

5) There is no competition in dialogue. A therapist won’t talk about their problems and make those problems bigger than yours

6) To cry without being prompted to stop or cheer up

7) To have someone hold space for difficult emotions

8) To learn more about yourself

9) To talk about people who need therapy, but won’t go

10) TO have someone sit with you during difficult times

11) To hear yourself talk without having to listen to another person talk about themselves

12) To process life events

13) To share things that other people don’t have time to hear about

If any of these ring true for you, then perhaps you should look into finding a therapist and discovering the ways in which they can help you not only overcome slumps, but help you thrive and empower you to live your best life!

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