Even though I’ve been working in mental heath for almost a decade now, like most people, I didn’t initiate therapy until I had a crisis. And like many people, I let it slide when things got better. Cut to a few years later and I fell back into the same hole. This time, because of the skills I had developed from the last time, I was able to recognize my symptoms earlier. This time, I didn’t wait until things had escalated beyond my control before I sought professional treatment.
Today I’m going to focus on *why* I think therapy is important but I want to acknowledge the barriers that exist to getting therapy (cost, availability, stigma, etc.). These are very real barriers & any discussion of mental health should include a discussion on how to make sure that it is equitable, affordable, accessible, non-judgmental, and high-quality.
It’s easier said than done because of the stigma, but I think therapy is something that should be encouraged even when things in your life are going well and even if you feel amazing. I say this because you can learn valuable lessons and build a toolkit of habits and skills that will come in handy throughout your life.
The reality of life inevitable means that at some point you will face a challenge, you will deal with a loss, and/or you will be confronted with life circumstances that impact your mental wellbeing. It’s good to already be learning how to prioritize your mental health and take care of yourself so that you’re better equipped for the things that life throws at you.
The second reason I encourage people to go to therapy is because you might have an undiagnosed mental disorder that could benefit from intervention. There’s a whole other conversation we can have about the pros and cons of the medical model of mental illness, but the point I’m making here, is that it’s important to recognize that sometimes you might not even realize that everything could be better.
Because mental disorders are so stigmatized and symptoms are often internalized, you might not even be aware that the amount of worry you’re having is excessive, or that your emotions are severely dysregulated, or that the difficulty you have in focusing on simple tasks is atypical. Most importantly, you might not realize that there are evidence-based treatments (behavioral and pharmaceutical) and accomodations that could improve your day to day experiences and quality of life.
To combat the stigma, we have to unequivocally reiterate that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being diagnosed with a mental disorder, and there is nothing wrong with receiving treatment including medication. Starting therapy is a great way to engage with the mental health system, to get diagnosed, to get referrals to different types of providers, and to establish a plan to improve your wellbeing.
If you’re on the fence about trying therapy, I hope this post encouraged you to go ahead and give it a try. If you have any questions please let me know in the comments!
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