Let’s get real about therapy.

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I’m a proponent of therapy, but it’s not just because I’m a therapist. Therapy has drastically changed my life. It’s helped me change my patterns of thinking. It’s helped me identify thoughts about myself that were incorrect. It’s helped me release pain and suffering. Therapy is part of the reason I am who I am today, and I’m happier, more confident, and more sane because of it (my friends and family would second this notion). 

Therapy is thankfully becoming less stigmatized, but there’s still a sense of shame around it. People think it means you’re weak or can’t handle life on your own.

And to that I say, You’re right guys! We CAN’T handle life on our own.

No one can! We’re social beings. We need help and support from others. In my opinion, the people that refuse help because of their own ego aren’t the strong ones, the ones who come forward, say “I need help!” are the ones that are strong. Getting help means you’re strong, and willing to go the distance to better your life.

Stop putting it off 

I’ve noticed that therapy is often the last thing on people’s lists. They will try every other method out there, THEN they will try therapy. Exercise, get drinks with friends, take a bath, go on a hike! These are all great modes of self-care, but they also won’t create permanent, lasting changes in your life. 

You could try other therapies, but they won’t work. Therapy works.

therapy image

I know there are a lot of “unknowns” surrounding therapy, so here are some common myths/questions that I’ve debunked or answered:

“You need a disorder for therapy” <—WRONG 
  • The requirements for therapy are very specific though, are you ready for it? In order to benefit from therapy you need:
    • TO BE A HUMAN BEING.
    • For real. That is all.
  • If you feel that you are struggling with something serious, getting therapy should definitely be in your wellness plan. But, there are plenty of other reasons you should get therapy that don’t involve a DSM diagnosis (<– big book mental health clinicians use to diagnose peeps), such as:
    • Divorce or break up
    • Moving to a new place
    • You’re frustrated that you get nervous around new people and miss out on social opportunities
    • You noticed that you’re engaging in negative self-talk often
    • You have a tendency to blame yourself for everything
    • You’ve developed a pattern where you consistently pick a partner that isn’t right for you
    • You hate your job and don’t know what you’re going to do with your life
    • You’re a person who lives in this world and life is hard sometimes
What HAPPENS in that room?!

TBH, whatever YOU want to happen. The first session, and every one thereafter, should be dictated by you. Remember, therapy is a collaborative process. A good therapist should not be just telling you what to do, or doing all of the work for you. The reason therapy works is because of the work you do. It’s better if the answers come from you and not someone else. (Want to learn about different types of therapy? Ask me here

Do I have to talk about the scary stuff?
  • While a therapist isn’t going to force you to talk about anything you can’t handle, I will say, the dark and twisty work is the most important work you need to do.
  • If you have some REAL dark and twisty things happening, let your therapist know that you would like to start slow. Maybe once you get a couple sessions under your belt, you’ll build up the courage to go deeper. Or, maybe once you develop a good relationship with your therapist you’ll WANT to tell them (I remember specific sessions where I just burst out with something I’d been holding inside for awhile. Like, literally walked in the door and yelled it. Ya never know how it will happen, just roll with it.) 
  • I will say, therapy requires vulnerability and the willingness to be uncomfortable. (By uncomfortable, I do not mean scared, panicked, or afraid of judgment. I mean the kind of uncomfortable that happens when we talk about deep rooted issues that are tough to say out loud.) But, this is where the most important work is done. 
What if I don’t like my therapist?
  • FIRE THEM. Okay you don’t need to literally fire them, but you can absolutely switch therapists. Just let your therapist know that it isn’t a good fit.
  • Therapists do not take this personal. I’ve been fired. Shoot, sometimes I was happy when clients fired me (we usually know if it’s a good fit, too). I told my clients in our first visit that if they don’t feel like we’re clicking, please tell me and I’ll help them find someone else. My goal is not to be the one who changes your life, my goal is for your life to change. If finding you a new therapist will get you there, I’ll do it.
  • Therapists have different personalities and approaches to therapy, (For example, most clients LOVED my humor and sass. Some didn’t get it. Some wanted a more gentle, soft spoken approach. Totally valid! Totally not me.) Don’t stop until you find someone that clicks.
Alphabet Soup

So, what do all the letters mean behind therapists names? Are they something you should pay attention to? Answer: yes and no.  

Because I am an amazingly weird human and thoroughly enjoy making tables, see below for a breakdown of the confusing alphabet soup that describes therapists. There are many more (unfortunately) and vary by state, but these are some common ones:

  • LCSW: Licensed Clinical Social Worker
  • LPC: Licensed Professional Counselor
  • LMFT: Licensed Marriage and Family therapist
  • PsyD or PhD: Psychologist
  • MD: Psychiatrist
Therapy? Prescribes meds? Master’s (2+ years ) Doctorate (4+ years) Medical School?
LCSW X X
LMFT X X
LPC X X
PsyD or PhD x X
Psychiatrist (some, not all) X X

Some random things: 

  • You can absolutely get prescribed meds from your primary care doctor, but I HIGHLY recommend going to a psychiatrist. Psychiatrists have been to medical school, but also have specialized training in mental health (meaning more than a psych. rotation during medical school or residency)
  • There are definitely helpful, empathetic wonderful psychiatrists out there, but in my experience (and many of my clients) they are not plentiful. If you go to a psychiatrist, expect them to be doctors, not therapists. They are assessing which medicine will work best for you and your symptoms, not giving you advice or therapy (although some of them are therapists too).
  • Don’t think that the more schooling (i.e. PhD or PsyD) necessarily means you’re getting a better therapist. In fact, some of the best therapists I’ve come across are LPC’s, LCSW’s, and LMFT’s.

Therapy is a big step. It means you’re willing to look inward and work through some things. It’s not easy. But, like anything, the more you do it, the easier it gets. Also, like most things, you will only get out of it what you put into it. You can have the most fabulous, educated, wonderful therapist on the planet, but if you aren’t willing to do the work, nothing will change. 

You can do it. I KNOW you all can do it. If humans didn’t have the capacity to change, my job wouldn’t exist. Make the first step. Start calling around to some therapists, make a few appointments. Let 2019 be the year you take control of your mental health. 

Does this help? I sure hope so! I know many of you are going to have questions that aren’t answered here (TBH I could have written like 8 more pages, but that’s boring) so if you do have ANY questions, ask me here!

2 comments on “Let’s get real about therapy.”

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