I started therapy when I was 21 after my parents got divorced in 2012. While I started therapy because of my parents divorce, it has gone far beyond that. I really don’t know where I would be right now without it. At this point, my therapist knows me better than most. She knows about my anxiety, my relationships, my history, and my story. It is so easy to pick back up with her each month.
Our sessions ebb and flow with whatever is going on in my life and I’m so thankful for that flexibility. Even when things are feeling fairly good, I’m always amazed by the things that come to light. When I expressed this to her recently, she said that when our mind is more clear and we don’t have as much of the surface level stresses or anxiety, it allows for a deeper release. So don’t skip those sessions even when you are feeling great. Sometimes those are the ones that bring out the biggest discoveries.
If you’ve ever been curious about therapy, wanted to start, or don’t know how to begin, today’s post is for you. I’m sharing what I’ve learned from 10+ years of therapy, and why I think EVERYONE should have a therapist!
What I’ve Learned From 10+ Years of Therapy
How To Find a Therapist
One of the most daunting parts of starting therapy is finding a therapist. There are so many different types of therapists, personalities and specializations it can be really overwhelming and even disheartening when you see someone that just does not click. I find one of the best ways to connect with a therapist is through recommendations from friends and family.
Recommendations from your PCP (Primary Care Physician) are another great way to connect with a therapist that can best support you. PCP’s will know which therapists specialize in certain things and can steer you in the right direction. The more people you ask the more information you can gather and then filter it through your own preferences.
What To Look For In A Therapist
Therapy is so personal and it is something you will want to be thoughtful about before jumping in. You don’t want to waste your time jumping from therapist to therapist so make a list ahead of time. Consider what qualities you are looking for in a therapist. My friend who is a therapist says that people often need different types of therapists for different “seasons” in their life.
You might be looking for someone warm, fuzzy, gentle and motherly to get you through a hard time. Or you may want someone who is a bit more tough and blunt to help you dig deeper and push yourself to learn and grow. Consider what it is you need in THIS phase of your life.
Make sure to read up on their training and expertise. Sometimes having someone who is very different from yourself is helpful to get you to see things from a different perspective. You will also want someone that is aligned with your overall beliefs and morals. You want to be sure that baseline values are in alignment so that their advice, questions and thoughts aren’t completely astray from your own. A friend and therapist said “the relationship is 99.99% of what makes therapy successful.”
What To Do If You Want To Leave/Change Your Therapist
Leaving or changing a therapist can feel awkward and it can be hard not to take these things personally. But in the end, you need to do what’s best for you. Whether it’s someone you just started seeing or have been seeing for a long time, if it’s not feeling like the right fit, then it’s time to move on. You know yourself best, trust that.
There is a difference between therapy that is making you feel uncomfortable because it’s good, deep work and therapy that is making you uncomfortable because your values are not in alignment. You can simply tell your therapist in a message or at the end of a session that you feel like you have done good work and are going to take a break for a while. You don’t have to be specific unless you would like to give the therapist some feedback.
How to Prepare for Therapy
The therapist can’t do the work for you
My friend likes to use the metaphor of getting a personal trainer. The personal trainer has the expertise to guide you in your workout routine, but if you aren’t willing to show up and do the work, then there is no point. If you are interested in trying therapy, know it’s not a one way street. You need to be ready to be vulnerable, open and share parts of yourself in order to get any benefit out of it.
Make a List
It is often helpful to go to therapy with a journal or list of things that are on your mind. If you are just starting therapy, you may have a list a mile long. You will usually only get to a few things each session, so pick a few that feel most pertinent to you in the moment. Know that therapy takes time and you won’t be “healed” in one session. You will hopefully feel a little bit lighter after each session though. And imagine how much lighter you will feel after months, years and decades worth of therapy!
Let go of the filter
What I love about therapy is that I get to throw the filter out the window. It is so freeing. Even with our closest family, friends and partners we usually have some sort of filter. Whether it’s to protect them or ourselves, we may not share certain thoughts or feelings.
One of the best things about talking to a therapist is they will not be offended by your thoughts or feelings. They do not have a personal connection or relationship to you and can help you see things from a different perspective.
Come with an open mind
Approach therapy with an open mind. You may have one idea about what therapy is going to be like, but it may in fact be very different. Instead of being quick to judge that, consider whether you could benefit from this too.
Think outside the box
There are so many different things you to can do to take care of your mental and physical health and well-being. Therapy is an important part of the puzzle, but it is also just as important to consider other modalities. Look at your life in a holistic way. You can’t expect one hour a week to cure you of all your problems. Be proactive about your diet, exercise routine, doctor, people you surround yourself with, how you spend your time and commitments you make.
Therapy is wonderful, but it’s not the end all solution. There are other options to explore including art therapy, equine therapy, somatic/mindfulness practices, yoga therapy and more. Spend time in nature, sign yourself up for a retreat to reset, and go to weekly yoga classes. There are so many things you can do for your health and wellbeing to live in peace, freedom and happiness.
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