Therapy is a time where we are not taking care of anyone else. We are taking care of ourselves, giving us the gift and opportunity to focus on us. What we think, what we feel, what we want, what we need. Just like a massage is a way of taking care of, and soothing our body, therapy is a way of taking care of our emotional body and massaging our souls.
A Gift We Give Ourselves
So many of us turn to therapy to help us find a way of balancing job, career, intimate relationship, family and self. Some of us turn to therapy to receive help with more effectively managing our stress. Others seek therapy to help develop better communication skills within a relationship with our partner. Some of us want to become better parents and find that therapy is an arena to share frustration and develop improved parenting skills. Some of us seek therapy because we are going through a life transition and want to find a smoother way to move through it and explore possible new avenues. Some of us feel that there’s something missing inside even though our lives externally appear to be working and we want to discover what that is to live a more fulfilled life.
Everyone Needs Help Sometimes
For many of us asking for help feels hard, and sometimes impossible. If asking for help from a loved one and from friends seems difficult, then it is no wonder that asking for help from a psychotherapist, or couple counselor feels daunting. We live in a culture that overtly, or covertly, states that independence is to be revered and defines independence rigidly. The reality is, we can still be independent men and women and need help sometimes. Some might feel that taking care of our mental health needs on our own is a sign of strength, and that seeking help with a therapist, or counselor, is a sign of weakness. Often needing help is confused with being needy. They are not the same. We all need help at times and deserve to have it.
No Crisis Required
Therapy has become less of the ‘dirty little secret’ that we don’t talk about. I love how therapy has become something that many of us are more accepting and open to. Psychotherapy is no longer only something someone seeks when in a crisis, or when we have experienced trauma, depression, panic attacks or a major loss. Therapy has now become something that is sought out, and embraced, for non-crisis oriented life experiences. Every day, normal experiences—which are just as important.
In wanting to be able to communicate more effectively with people, therapy can help with ordinary things people have trouble dealing with such as:
- Life transitions
- Career dilemmas
- Money issues
- Parenting difficulties
- Decision making
- Difficulty balancing career, children, and self
- Difficulty saying, no
- Feeling overwhelmed or overstressed
- The inability to stop people pleasing
Stop the Stigma
Years ago, it was thought that only someone who is “crazy”, or someone who had a traumatic life experience, goes to therapy. Although there are still some who still believe this to some degree, thankfully this is significantly lessening. The misconception about psychotherapy, or couple counseling, is finally changing more than ever before.
The feeling that we need to maintain a stiff upper lip isn’t beneficial when it’s at the expense of our emotional, physical, and spiritual health. The fear of discrimination, or facing judgment as being weak, for seeking out a therapist to care for our emotional needs, may have roots in our childhood.
The messages we have received from childhood, or adolescence, may shape how we view asking for help. If our parents, or other adult authority figures, redirected our concerns with comments like…
“Stop acting like that. You’re a big boy now.” or “You don’t need help. You can take care of yourself.” or “What’s wrong with you?” or “Get over it.” or “Everybody goes through that.” or “Stop being so dramatic.”
…we might be reluctant to seek help from a psychotherapist.
Improving Upon Ourselves with Therapy
Some of this stigma may have also developed from watching the old overly dramatic cinematic portrayal of people with severe psychological issues as being violent and unpredictable. Nowadays, when we watch television, or movies, there is a significant increase in everyday characters talking about therapy, or being in therapy. Improving upon our mental health wellness with therapy is starting to become a little more woven into the fabric of our media, entertainment and our society as a whole. Expanding social media outlets have provided the ability to connect and share stories outside of our own social circles about how we’ve benefitted from therapy.
We Are Not Alone
Hashtags, such as #stopthestigma, blogs, and Facebook groups have begun to whittle away the social isolation and fear that once surrounded caring for our emotional health. I find that people are talking with each other more about being in therapy and sharing their therapist’s names with friends, families, or coworkers. Friends and neighbors no longer hide their therapy in shame, they realize they can help themselves, and others, by sharing their struggle.
The face of mental illness are the faces of people you know well but often you do not know their 'secret'.Ruth C. White, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.S.W.
Most everyone struggles in one way or another, whether it is with their own wellness, or someone they know. Here at Nassau Guidance and Counseling we often receive calls from people who share that they’ve received our name from a friend, or a family member, who is seeing one of our therapists, and that they would like to get started themselves. This highlights how this stigma is starting to melt away.
People You May Assume Would Never Have a Problem, Often Do
Just recently Prince Harry courageously allowed himself to be vulnerable by sharing that some time ago he sought therapy because he was still struggling with the emotional ramifications of his mother, Princess Diana’s, death as a child. He states he refused to think about her death, or talk about it, for years, thus not allowing himself to grieve. Yet it didn’t erase his pain, or ease his struggle.
Lady Gaga and Prince Harry also connected via FaceTime talking about their experiences with mental health. Lady Gaga shared that she’d experienced the trauma of being sexually assaulted at age nineteen and she shared how therapy helped her. This is not the first time that public figures have chosen to share their issues with their emotional health to help us see that therapy is a valuable vehicle to address and work through issues. Many have shared their struggles, including actor, Jared Padalecki, whose Always Keep Fighting campaign continues to receive an outpouring of support.
Friend vs. Therapist
The good news is that we can choose to enter psychotherapy and or marriage counseling to help us identify what is not feeling right within ourselves, or our relationship, and receive help for it. Many of us try to figure out stuff on our own, yet it is impossible to be objective about what we are experiencing.
Others of us talk with a trusted friend, or family member, yet it is impossible for them to be objective because they care about us. They are influenced by their own experiences and interpretations. So many of us are hoping for suggestions, yet whomever we are asking, are perhaps influenced by their own unresolved issues. Or since they are close to us, they may tell us what we want to hear, yet not what we may need to hear.
Therapy is a Partnership
There is a difference between receiving help from a friend, or trusted family member, and a therapist, or psychologist. A therapist is a trusted partnership. A therapist, or counselor, is someone we can share what we’re thinking and feeling, even if we’re not comfortable with what’s inside of us. Speaking confidentially with a psychologist, clinical social worker or marriage and family therapist enables us to openly share our feelings of what we need and what we want without worrying what our family member, or friend, might think.
A friend may be where you chose to start the conversation because they are a good listener, but a friend, or family member, cannot be as objective and non-judgmental as a therapist. Nor do they have the experience and education a therapist draws from to skillfully provide validation and help people to process and move through whatever they are experiencing.
Taking Care of Ourselves
Our emotional health is just as important as our physical health. If we wanted to care for a physical problem, we go to an expert. Choosing an expert to care for our mental health is just as important. Speaking with a trusted psychotherapist at Nassau Guidance and Counseling located on Long Island can help. Our licensed therapists have helped many people work through the ordinary, or an extraordinary, crisis and enjoy optimal emotional health.