The idea of taking care of your mental health has been on the forefront of the public eye for a while now - self-care, self-love, checking your emotions and validating them as necessary are beginning to become common (which we at Send HEPi are super excited about). A key step in the right direction of a good and balanced mental health is Therapy.
Therapy, otherwise referred to as psychotherapy, counseling, or talk-therapy, is meant to help you process and digest your emotions, behaviors, thoughts, and life situations. When attended routinely, therapy involves 'sitting' (sometimes virtually in this day and age) one-on-one with a mental health professional to address your needs. Since the decision to start therapy is so personal, your choice of in-person or virtual sessions is equally as important to you.
People seek therapy for a variety of different reasons, for different lengths of time - some folks go for years, others just utilize a few sessions and feel complete. It all depends on you, and there is no right answer.
Some common reasons that people might seek therapy are:
discussing personal issues that you don't have a safe space to discuss otherwise
processing traumatic events
managing severe/long-term feelings of stress
symptoms of depression or anxiety, or concerns of other mental health conditions
having already been diagnosed with a mental health condition, and seeking guidance
major life events, for example: death of a loved one, relationship issues, a new move
So how do I start therapy?
Have a chat with your primary. Primary care doctors can often times be a fantastic resource for referrals to mental health practitioners that can fit your needs. Since mental health is just as important as physical health, it is important to be open and honest. Don't be afraid to ask questions! Usually, family doctors will suggest that you visit a psychiatrist - specifically a mentally health professional that can prescribe mood-altering medication. If you are only looking for a therapist or a counselor, state this early on! Your primary will still be able to help!
Bring in your mom, your bestie, your sibling. In a lot of 'scary' situations, it's helpful to have someone you love and trust by your side. Bringing someone close to you to your first appointment is helpful because it can fight your anxieties knowing that someone you trust is waiting for you outside your appointment room. If both you and your therapist are in agreement, you can also bring them in for a brief time into your session. Sometimes, with regard to side effects from medication or symptoms that are not self-recognizable, it is good to have someone close to you step into a therapy session to provide insight to your therapist.
Tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Honesty is insanely important! Therapy is a no-judgement zone, so you shouldn't feel the need to hide or alter facts during your conversations with your therapist. If you are 100% honest, they will be able to 100% help you! If you are over the age of 18, your therapist is legally bound to confidentiality. This means that anything that you discuss in your sessions is completely between the two of you - and no one else (exceptions being suicide, homicide, and abuse). Under 18, parents may be involved on a necessary basis, however it is rare and the patient would be informed beforehand. Having clear communication means that your therapist knows exactly how to assist you.
Don't be afraid to ask questions. Communication from both parties is needed to form a strong bond between a patient and a therapist. Feel free to ask your questions, whether they are about symptoms, therapy processes, medication, etc. Your therapist not only listens, but provides guidance and constructive feedback. This includes discussing your goals openly - ask yourself, "what do I want to get out of therapy?" Your therapist should also have some questions for you! Usually, it includes basic demographic information and reasonings for seeking therapy, but each therapist is different in the way they approach their practice and their patients.
Not every shoe fits. Not every therapist is going to match correctly. Sometimes you'll feel weird talking to them, it just won't be right! No harm no foul! Definitely don't give up - your mental health is worth the fight. First impressions can often times be misleading, and you both need warm-up time - give your therapist a few sessions worth of a try before you jump ship completely. A lot of therapists offer free consultations via the phone, so this may be resourceful in narrowing down your options. If you want to save even more time, just reach out to Send HEPi! It's literally what we do!
Patience is a virtue. Practice patience as much as you can. There is no overnight fix. It won't be easy. Sometimes, going through therapy can feel like you're going backwards. But you have to dive into the cruddy bits to be able to see yourself all the way to the top. Remember that it's okay to set boundaries, with your therapist, with yourself. It's okay to cry. It's okay to feel all those emotions!
Trust the process, focus on your work, and believe in yourself!