When I was younger, I struggled to adjust to my family life. My parents divorced when I was little and while I was too young to understand the details, I knew it wasn’t a civil break. I didn’t think much of it, but there were things going on beneath the surface that haunted me throughout my childhood and adolescence to the point where I acted out. A lot. So often, actually, that my mom used to tell me (jokingly or seriously, I’m still not sure) that I needed to see a psychologist. Each time she said this, I took it as an insult. I pushed back against the idea, because I thought it meant there was something wrong with me; that I wasn’t in full control of myself; that ultimately I was a failure.
It sounds dramatic, but those were my thoughts as I was growing up. There was such a stigma around seeing a therapist that I just didn’t want to be a part of. The stigma still exists today, but to less of an extent.
Looking back now, I wish I had taken the plunge into therapy much sooner. I say “plunge” because therapy is not an easy journey. At the age of 24, I’m finished with school, I work full-time, I live in a different country, and my life feels pretty stable. But somehow, I only recently decided to start seeing a therapist.
When I told my family and friends about my decision, some of them were very supportive while others made comments like “you’re being extreme” and “you don’t need a therapist.” Maybe I don’t seem like the kind of person who needs a therapist––but what does it even mean to be the kind of person who needs a therapist?
Despite what people think, there is no checklist of problems that you have to have. People think therapy is exclusively for people who have depression, anxiety, eating disorders, etc., and it’s true that therapy can do wonders for people who struggle with those problems. But the truth is that therapy can also do wonders for people without diagnosable mental health disorders.
Therapy can be for people who are going through a hard time, who don’t know what the next step in their life should be, or who are just looking to learn about themselves.
Today, I fall into the latter category.
I was having a rough time with my breakup and the pressure of basically re-planning my life with no clue where I want to be in a year’s time hit me hard. I also was aware that I had made mistakes that led to my relationship’s circumstances and thought maybe there was still some debris from my family life hanging around that was unattended to. Only one way to find out, so I started going to therapy.
My experience with therapy has been so positive and I am fully convinced this world would be a much better place if everyone at least tried out a few sessions. Whether you’ve been diagnosed and treated for your mental health or you’re trying to improve a specific area of your life and aren’t sure where to start, I highly recommend it.
It improves your self-awareness
In order to fix our flaws, we have to realize them first! Sometimes this can be hard to do without a safe and neutral third party in the mix. We all have unhealthy patterns–– whether it’s addiction of some sort or it’s avoidance of your true emotions––that affect ourselves and our relationships with others. Some patterns are more easily visible than others. Some can only be uncovered through talking with someone who is professionally trained to see them. Once uncovered, our therapists can help us slowly begin to change our mindset and our behavior in order to replace these patterns with healthier ones.
It helps you unearth the root of negative patterns
Once we determine where they started, we will better understand the reasons behind our actions and can prevent those motivations from surfacing again. Eventually, we can even learn to self-correct.
Self-correction is an important step in continuing to grow and become independent. This will ultimately improve our relationship with ourselves and with other people so we don’t keep making the same mistakes and getting hurt. For example, during my last relationship, I pushed my independence too much.
In therapy, I’ve discovered that I was hesitant to loosen my independence because I was scared of getting too close and becoming dependent on someone else. Knowing this, I can move forward and be conscious of my tendencies and work to keep them in check.
It’s a safe place for you to let off some steam
It’s literally your therapist’s job to be neutral––nothing you say about anything going on in your life is going to offend your therapist or make them judge you. They know you’re there to get help and sometimes part of the process is ranting angrily about the guy that ghosted you last week or that coworker that just sent you that passive-aggressive email.
And if you rant to your therapist, you’re less compelled to rant to others in your life, who could get offended or even spread your words to people who weren’t meant to hear them––causing even bigger problems for you down the road.
It’s useful for understanding the process of change and healing
Of course you’ll know more about your own personal processes, but you will also be able to apply this knowledge to the people around you. You’ll be more mindful of what the people close to you might be going through. If you’ve done something for yourself first and you’ve been through these mental processes, you’ll be able to better understand and meet the needs of those close to you – ultimately improving your relationships with them.
Clearly therapy has a lot of benefits, whether you think you need it or not. You get out of it what you give, so if you’re open to it you can learn so much about yourself and the world around you. And the sooner this learning happens the better! It could change your life in the most unexpected and positive ways, as it has for me. Don’t get me wrong…it’s not a walk in the park to sift through your inner life like this, but in the end it’s worth it.