When you think of therapy, you might imagine two people sitting on uncomfortable furniture and talking about one’s childhood. And you wouldn’t be completely wrong, but you’re also far from completely right. For many, therapy is a scary word. It carries with it years of social stigma and generations of media parodies and overgeneralization. But, like many things in life, it’s far more complex than that, and far more crucial in our modern world.
Some people see therapy as a weakness, likely because many portrayals of it on television and in movies paint it as a hopeless and useless endeavor, used to convey to viewers that someone is crazy, sad or hopeless. That kind of imagery seeps into our society and has convinced many to avoid therapy at all costs, and that’s super not OK!! What we need to understand, instead, is that therapy is a tool, a resource. It’s not scary or demeaning and seeing a therapist doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It means you’re taking charge of your life, of your mental well-being, and of your happiness.
You may say “Well, I tried therapy once, and it didn’t work for me. Why should I go again if it didn’t make me feel better?” and to that I say, what kind of therapist did you see? And what were you hoping to accomplish? And how long did you go before you quit?
The thing about therapy is that it’s never just one thing. It’s not one size fits all, and it isn’t the answer for everyone for everything. Therapy can be a lot of different things, depending on your needs and the therapist you’re seeing. Different types of therapists specialize in different forms of therapy, whether it’s teaching you to break bad habits or compulsions or talking to you about your feelings and helping you to understand them. Some will sit down with you and talk back and forth about your life, what’s bothering you, and how you can help yourself. Others sit back, let you do the talking and serve as motivators and listeners to help you process your feelings and come to your own conclusions. There are even physical forms of mental therapy as well. Some people find horseback riding therapeutic, and others find it easier to express themselves through art. You can even access therapy electronically, such as texting through apps like TalkSpace, and some counseling services even provide phone and video sessions. The point is, there are a million ways to get in touch with yourself and improve your mental health, but admitting you need or even want help is the hardest part.
If you’ve gone to a therapist before and didn’t find it a good fit, consider figuring out what kind of therapist they were, and seeking out one that better suits your situation. Do some research and go into the therapist search with the necessary vocabulary to find what you need, and don’t be afraid to shop around. If something isn’t working for you, don’t give up on help entirely. Be sure to give it a couple of sessions at least, to really get comfortable with the person or situation. And more importantly, don’t expect it to be a one-stop shop cure-all for your problems. Therapy is a journey, and it can take some time before you feel 100 percent, and that’s OK. Try someone new, or something new and, above all, don’t give up on yourself. If in the end, you find that therapy isn’t for you, that’s perfectly fine and normal too. As I said, it isn’t for everyone, and it also isn’t the only solution. Mental health and wellness is a lifelong journey, and there will be ups and downs, but the best thing you can do for yourself is to ask for help. Even if it’s scary, especially if you’re at your wits end, it’s important to pay attention to your body and mind and take care of yourself, and there’s no shame in that.
Sarah Nowack is a senior professional writing major who is minoring in graphic design. Her days are spent haunting the local library, consuming copious amounts of coffee, playing unpopular video games, and making terrible puns. She can be found at @battlerouge on Twitter and @shiverbound on Instagram.