If you’re thinking about starting therapy but haven’t yet, you may or may not be consciously aware of the reasons why you’re hesitating. You might worry about the investment; maybe you don’t feel that you have the time or finances in place to commence therapy. You may feel that you “don’t really need” therapy – perhaps you feel you’re coping alright or like you don’t “have it bad enough” to warrant seeking mental health support. Maybe you’re worried about what people in your life will think or say about you attending therapy. But still, you are finding yourself thinking about it. So what stops you from starting therapy?
Before we can talk about the wonderful benefits of attending therapy, it is important to have an honest conversation about the stigma of therapy. For a long time, the messaging we got about therapy was that it was for “certain types” of people with particular experiences. Even watching film and television from within the last thirty years displays a sort of dismissiveness about psychology, psychiatry, therapy, and counseling. “Headshrinkers” and “quacks”; sound familiar? Or the people who attend therapy: “lunatics,” “neurotics,” “basket cases.” Over the past decade or so, mental health awareness has increased and improved. Notable figures have talked about the benefits of looking after their mental health. People such as athletes, actors, politicians, authors, community leaders, and more have been open about attending therapy. In doing so, they have helped to break the stigma about mental health support. This doesn’t mean that it’s easy to cast off what others might say about therapy or what you were raised to feel. It also doesn’t necessarily help you take that first step to reach out.
Sometimes it can also be hard to start therapy because you don’t know where to start. The complicated thing about mental health, such as depression, an eating disorder, or addiction, is that you get too stuck into maladaptive
behaviors that you don’t know how to break the cycle. For example, when depression hijacks your motivation, finding the energy to search for a therapist and make the initial call may be hard. It might take a catastrophic situation to spur you to action, but that’s not ideal. Yes, a therapist can help you deal with trauma and loss, and it’s never too late to start. But if you already feel as though you could use some mental health support, you don’t need to wait until you are at your breaking point to get it. Any time is a good time to put yourself, your health, and your needs first. You might wonder what going to therapy is like or how it works. It can be intimidating to begin a process that you’re unsure about. Yes, some of what you’ve seen in movies is accurate or can be. Therapy is offered in professional spaces, in-home studies, in parks, online, and more. And therapy involves conversing with another human being about a wide variety of topics. But what you might not be able to see in movies is how therapy compares to talking to a friend or family member, how long a person’s treatment might last, or the vast array of reasons people commence therapy.
3 Things to Know About Therapy:
1. Seeing a therapist is a specific experience:
Often there is a misconception that if you have a good support system, then you really shouldn’t need a therapist. After all, you have your family, friends, maybe a romantic partner, or even a pastor, to talk to. But there is a difference between talking to people who know you personally, who might have biased opinions about what you’re saying or who are hoping for a certain outcome, and talking to a therapist. Don’t be mistaken: a strong and stable support system and therapy are not mutually exclusive. In fact, in therapy, we work on building and maintaining a strong support system. But a strong support system is not a substitute for professional mental health support. Therapists have made it their life’s work to understand mental health and have a unique set of skills to help guide and support you.
Another key principle that will help you get comfortable with starting the therapy is understanding that you can not do this work alone. It is true that your existing support network isn’t a substitute for therapy. Well, neither is gutting it out by yourself. Old-school thinking says that doing things on your own is a sign of strength and competence. This couldn’t be further from the truth. When it comes to uncovering things, resolving unresolved feelings, and looking at your blind spots, you need another person in the room to hold a mirror up to you.
If you opt to attend therapy in person, you will soon realize that you are entering a safe space to discuss and examine your emotions, experiences, perceptions, and more. This location will be one that is reserved solely for your safety and benefit. The act itself of going to therapy, of making your appointment, commuting, and entering the room, is healing. It sends a message and puts into action that you are deserving of care and wellness. Even if you attend therapy virtually, you are setting aside time for specific conversations. You may always sit in the same spot in your house, drink out of the same mug, or create some other “therapy” ritual for your online sessions so as to differentiate them from your regular day-to-day time and space. Both in-person and online therapy offers you a time that you can make all about yourself while still receiving support. This is not something you can typically achieve in other scenarios; other relationships require and deserve to give and take. Supporting yourself isn’t the same as having another person to participate.
You may be interested to know that even therapists attend therapy. If you feel that you have a solid understanding of what your issues are, where they came from, and how to handle them in theory, you might think that there is no benefit to attending therapy. In fact, it is very different to explore a circumstance, hear affirmations and validations, and be prompted to explore different ideas with another person.
2. There is not one thing that brings you to therapy:
You don’t have to wait until things get too hard to go to therapy. It is true that it sometimes takes a big life event to motivate someone to take the first step to go. But once you are there, you may find that you have much to discuss.
Therapy is not just for traumatic life events. It is for both short-term and long-term goals. Sometimes you may address a mental health diagnosis such as OCD, Addiction, or Anxiety, while other times, you may simply want to work on your personal development and/or relationship issues.We see a whole range of people and reasons to attend therapy here at our practice in Woodland Hills, CA. You might feel that you aren’t able to assert your boundaries with confidence and want to work on that; discussing where that comes from and how it shows up in your life may or may not lead to other discoveries and other conversations. There may be a life change that you are wanting to make or have recently made, such as moving, a separation, or cutting off communication with someone you had an unhealthy attachment to. You may be feeling generalized anxiety and a sense of dis-ease and are curious about where that might come from and how it might help.
When we get down to it, most of us have something burdening us. It might be insecurity from childhood, a toxic past relationship, a drive for perfectionism, resentment toward a family member; it might be anything! There is no issue too “small” to discuss in therapy. You might discover, in therapy, that your concern is actually connected to some bigger questions or pain points. You might also discover that that issue is resolved through some exploration and use of tools, and you’re done with therapy within a few months.
Because there has been a stigma about attending therapy, you may worry that your therapist is comparing you to other clients or people they know who “have it worse.” That is not the case. Therapy is literally for everyone. Every person on this planet has a history, interpersonal relationships, obligations, and experiences loss and hard times. Every single person has a psychological profile. Therefore, every single person can benefit from doing work to foster their mental wellness.
3. You don’t have to be in therapy forever or for a set amount of time:
One of the things we are very proud of our services here in our Woodland Hills therapy practice is that your therapy experience will be tailored to your needs and goals. For some, it may mean attending individual therapy once a week for one year. For others, it may be working with a trusted therapist on and off over the course of the year. How your time in therapy plays out depends on what we find along the way. Because many experiences can be interconnected, the length of time to work through them is unpredictable. Your therapist is not sitting there thinking, “Oh, this should be solved by now,” or “This should have taken longer; this person is hiding something from me!” All your therapist cares about is that you are able to attend your sessions and feel safe and comfortable seeking and obtaining the care you need.
Therapy will also look different not just in the frequency of sessions but also in how each session is structured. For example, if you are seeking therapy to address OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), our therapist will utilize ERP (Exposure and Response Therapy), which is a behavioral intervention that will include hands-on exposure. If you are seeking therapy to address feelings of insecurity and self-doubt, therapy will involve thought-recording to track your negative self-talk and deeper conversations on any past experiences where these unkind views of yourself were originally developed. Ultimately we want each of our clients to have strong insight and awareness of their triggers and have the effective tools to respond better moving forward.
Once you begin therapy, you may also find that you enjoy the process and don’t want it to end. There is no reason why you can’t continue to visit your therapist every few months for a bit of a “tune-up” after you’ve completed your consistent therapy work. There’s also no rule that says you can’t feel done with therapy and then return even years later when you need help again. Nobody is going to judge you for “failing to stay away from therapy”; it’s not a pass or fail exercise. There is no goal to get you “fixed” as soon as possible or expectation that you’ll never need support again. Therapy is like any other form of self-support. You don’t eat one meal and then never again. You don’t have one shower and then never again. And sometimes, you’re really busy running around for a while, and you need to eat more and shower more to keep going and stay clean. Then after a while, your schedule changes again, and your basic needs change with it. Mental health is a basic need, and there is zero shame in doing what you need to do to keep yourself feeling good.
There are a lot of talks these days about self-care and a lot of imagery to go with that talk. Everyone’s idea of health and wellness is different, and everyone’s priorities are different, too. What we usually
see presented as self-care can often come with an aesthetic that feels exclusionary – spa days, pristine and organized homes, matching sets to go to the gym in, etc. If we can’t afford or don’t enjoy the spa, have a more cozy and cluttered look to our home, or don’t enjoy going to the gym, we can begin to feel that self-care isn’t for us. The truth is that self-care doesn’t look any one way, fit any one lifestyle, or have a specific set of requirements. Self-care is what you need it to be. If your version of self-care is turning your phone to Do Not Disturb at seven o’clock every evening, making sure to get your favorite takeout at least once a week, having dance parties in your living room by yourself, and watching reruns of a comfort TV show, then that is your version. Therapy is self-care. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and each relies on the other. You deserve to have a space to go that is all for you, where you can learn tools for dealing with tough times and also practice accepting and celebrating the good times. You deserve to support yourself and your mental health.
Here at Embracing You Therapy, we invite you to explore with us how life would be different if you had more control over your thoughts and emotions, and we invite you to consider that it is possible to accept things just as they are, embracing imperfections to create a gentler place for calm in your life.
Our mental health practice in Woodland Hills, CA, offers individual and couple’s therapy. Both Dr. Menije, Ani Seferyan, AMFT, Allison Lucchese, AMFT, and Cindy Sayani, AMFT offer virtual therapy to treat mental health concerns including panic attacks, OCD, phobias, and stress; Mood disorders including depression; Relationship issues, both in couples therapy and with individual clients; Perinatal mental health issues such as postpartum depression, Codependency, and Addiction.
Let’s learn what drives your unique perspective on anxiety and stress. Then, let’s find the tools-your unique tools that help you respond to life in a healthy, calm way. Contact us today for your complimentary 20-minute phone consultation with our Client Care Coordinator.
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address21031 Ventura Blvd, Suite 316Woodland Hills, CA 91364
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