Why Therapy and Talking About Your Problems Should Be Encouraged
This article was written by my son, Wyatt Scratch, published in the Patients Lounge
Wyatt has spent most of his life surrounded by talented and respected therapists, giving him an understanding of the stigmas of therapy. Contact Author
What Exactly Is Therapy?
By definition, therapy is simply “a treatment intended to relieve or heal a disorder.” Like most things in life, it’s a tad more complex than that. Therapy is there to help you understand yourself—to give a little insight into why you think the way you do.
It has helped countless people, myself included, but there still seem to be some doubts and concerns about therapy. So let’s go through some of the assumptions people make about therapy. I’ll discuss them based on my own experience and from talking with many respected therapists.
Isn’t Therapy a Last Resort?
No. That is a very dangerous way of thinking, and that’s most likely where the stigma comes from. Waiting and waiting until you are almost at the brink of collapse is not healthy.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Mental health is not something that you may not have. Like your physical health, you have mental health. It requires maintenance, including proper food consumption and living a healthy lifestyle.
What If I Don’t Have a Diagnosis?
Therapy isn’t just for those with a diagnosable mental illness. It is for anyone who is willing to openly discuss their fears and worries. There seems to be this idea that therapy makes you weak—that everyone should be able to deal with all their thoughts and emotions with no outside help. This is an extremely negative and unhealthy mindset to have. That thought process can lead to angry outbursts, lack of self-confidence, depressive episodes, or any number of issues. That being said, going to therapy and discussing your issues isn’t always easy.
What If I Don’t Want to Talk?
You may say, “I’m terrified of talking to people casually, let alone in a serious, tense setting.” That’s normal and perfectly fine. What’s most important is that you be as open and honest as you comfortably can. Getting the full benefits of therapy requires an amount of trust and vulnerability that can feel downright strange to some folks. It’s a matter of who you are.
An important thing to remember is to not lie. If the therapist asks you a question you don’t feel comfortable answering, tell them you can’t answer that question. Try not to lie, or be dismissive. That can be very challenging to some people. However, refusing to answer the question is also helpful for the therapist. They can get a better sense of your situation from knowing what your boundaries and anxieties are. If you feel nervous just talking to them, let them know.
What If I Hate My Therapist?
Some people might not like their therapist. While it’s unfortunate, it’s completely understandable. Sometimes, two people just can’t mesh well. The human mind is infinitely complex, and no single therapist can be a good fit for everyone. This is another case of being as honest as you can. If you don’t think the therapist is compatible, tell them. Have a discussion. Maybe they can refer you to another therapist, or a specialized therapist. Whatever the reason, they will understand.
Isn’t My Privacy in Risk of Being Violated?
There’s something called confidentiality. It’s the same as with your family doctor—they’re not legally allowed to disclose any information to other people. Anything that you and your therapist talk about is completely confidential.
The only time a therapist would ever give out information would be if you admitted that you intendto or havecommitted a violent or harmful crime. At that point, the therapist is legally obligated to inform the police.
They are not obliged to disclose, for instance, your thoughts of harm, as those thoughts aren’t what make people dangerous. I want to make this point clear, as I have OCD, and my thoughts can sometimes be very violent, making me feel scared and guilty.
The best thing that any therapist has told me is that thoughts are not actions. If you have violent imagery in your mind, a therapist will not inform the police. They will help you understand what those thoughts are, why you are thinking them, and help you overcome them.
What Can I Expect From a First time Visit?
It’ll vary from person to person. Therapy isn’t easy. It requires work. It’s up to you and your therapist to figure out what works for you. Just know that therapy is patient-driven, so it can be challenging if you don’t feel good enough to get better. It gets cyclical, and that’s a good point to bring up with the therapist. Ask questions, be honest, and be prepared to challenge yourself.
How Can Talking Help Someone Overcome Social Anxieties?
There are many degrees of social anxiety, and the best way to treat it is through exposure. That’s quite a scary prospect for people who have social anxieties. The first thing to do is ask yourself, “Do I want to become better?” not, “Do I think I can become better?” because you can. Everyone has the power to change themselves for the better. If you don’t believe in yourself, find someone else who believes in you, and believe in them.
Again, therapy is patient-driven. If someone is so scared of social interactions that they can’t leave the house, it can be very challenging to even see a therapist. Because they don’t have the courage to see a therapist, they feel inadequate, which can cause more anxiety. As with most anxieties, it can become a vicious, cyclical monster of self-doubt and fear.
What Would Overcoming Social Anxiety Be Like?
Let’s say there’s someone with anxieties that prevent them from leaving their house. Let’s call her Tricia. An at-home therapist is hired, and after talking to Tricia, it’s determined she’s suffering from crippling self-doubt and thought distortions that lead her to assume that everyone will judge her all the time. It takes a couple sessions to build up trust; for the therapist to show Tricia that they are there to help.
A first step of exposure therapy might be to sit on the front lawn and have a nice chat. Nothing intense, just a talk about whatever she liked. After a few times, they may suggest going to a park during off-hours, when there aren’t many people there, and sitting on a bench and chatting.
After getting used to chatting in an empty park, they might suggest trying the same thing again during peak times. Then later on still, maybe a trip to a mall, or a local coffee shop.
Tricia slowly but steadily climbs the ladder, getting more and more comfortable with going outside. She won’t always be happy; sometimes, she won’t come out of her house regardless. But nobody’s perfect, and that too is an important lesson.
Sometimes, you fail.
In today’s world, failure is viewed so negatively that the thought of failure can stop people from trying in the first place. The therapist doesn’t scold or dislike Tricia because she failed. Therapists are there for support, to help you achieve your goals. Even the most extroverted person has days of solitude.
Other Types of Therapy
There are many different forms of therapy that cater to specific mental patterns. There’s Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Interpersonal Therapy (IPT), Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), just to name a few.
There are also specialists for different mental illness, including OCD, depression, bipolar disorder, anorexia.
Finding the right therapist is key, and it’s important to take your comfort into account. Maybe you feel more reticent around males, so you would want a female therapist. That’s fine. Do not feel badly about it.
Maybe you only feel comfortable around someone of a certain ethnicity, or certain age. People will feel guilty, thinking they’re racist or sexist just because they can’t feel relaxed around just anyone. That’s incorrect. Whatever the reason, make sure you try and find the best possible therapist. Try and be honest with yourself.
I won’t get into all the details, but having been through therapy myself, I can say I’ve had a positive experience. Being raised by a pair of child and youth workers certainly helped as a lot of progress was made during the first session alone—simply because I was taught to be one hundred percent open and clear with any and all therapists.
I won’t lie, at times during that first hour of therapy, I was scared, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried a whole lot. Talking to someone who could help me understand myself in a way nobody else was able to has helped me grow into a more confident and caring person. Not only to myself, but to those around me.
I’m lucky enough to have the mental health industry all around me as I grew up. Some people don’t have that luxury and feel the need to distrust a system they don’t completely understand. It’s unfortunate, but that’s how progress works. You take a problem and overcome it.
I hope that I’ve made a good case for therapy, as it’s helped many people, and it breaks my heart to see it get a bad rap. Don’t just trust me, look around! Lots of people have success with therapy. The ones who don’t usually had one bad experience and dismissed the whole thing as stupid. I’m not telling you to go to therapy—just encouraging you to at least entertain the thought, do some research, and see what kind of help is around you.
Thanks for reading, and remember: You can become a better you!