I feel like if counselors and therapists were called “Life Advisors” there would be less stigma placed on those who see them. Or, less stigma placed on mental health overall. When someone remarks that they have an appointment with their financial advisor, the response may typically be, “Cool, hope all goes well!” or “Yeah, I need to get one of those and get my finances in order!” What if in conversation you heard someone say, “I have an appoint with my “Life Advisor” today. An internal thought may be, hummm, I’ve got some things in my life I could use advice on. But if that same person said, “I have a therapy appointment today,” the response would be quite different or maybe there is no response at all now…because you just became uncomfortable and your inner thought goes to, “humm, she must be sick in the head.”
Everyone Needs Therapy
I don’t remember the first time I saw a therapist. If I had to guess it was probably about 18-20 years ago. If you know my story, then you know I faced a lot of adversity in my life as a young child, teenager and as a young adult. My mom left when I was 8, we had abusive step mothers, my dad emotionally checked out, the list goes on. While you’re a child going through these things, your only goal is survival. You are unaware of how these current situations will come to affect your future life choices. Some people never attain the self awareness to put the pieces together. I did however, and I knew I needed help.
I left home the day I graduated high school, and although I had aspirations of furthering my education, it wasn’t meant to be at that time. I moved out, started a new life with a new husband and a baby that would be born before the end of the year. Fast forward another couple of years, another baby on the way and the realization that the man I married was not at all who I thought I wanted to spend my life with. I had no mom to lean on, no one to put their hand on my shoulder and tell me things I needed to know and hear. My decisions were made based on what I thought was best. After awhile, it all caught up with me.
My first therapy session revealed to me just how much I needed to purge the things I had been carrying around all of those years. Things that dated back to the 8 year old little girl. It was like a lightbulb had been lit and for the first time in years I could now see the ‘reasons’ for decisions I had made in my life. My life finally started to make a little sense. Therapy was the best decision I had ever made for myself and in all honesty, the best thing I could have done for my children as well.
Tools in the Toolbox
My therapist gave me tools to use to help me recognize (and change) certain behaviors that I had picked up along the way. I used these tools often and all aspects of my life was better and I was back in control. By this point I had divorced my first husband, been a single parent of two little girls, met Steve got married and had a little boy, and I was 23 years old. My life was so fulfilled and happy for several years. Then, just like that, adversity struck and I lost my brother. It was sudden, it was debilitating. In addition to the pain and sorrow I felt, his death stirred a lot of family drama that I had been able to deal with until this point.
Back to therapy, my tool box needed filling, I was lost in grief.
Life Doesn’t Have to Be Trauma Induced
Childhood issues and tragic events need not be the precursor to receiving therapy. You might have had the perfect childhood with warm loving parents, married your high school sweetheart, raised a few children, etc. but now find your life a bit empty and you don’t know why. Therapists have such an amazing way of helping us understand how and why we feel a particular way or why certain things become stressors in our lives.
According to Psychology Today, here are some other reasons one might seek therapy:
Mental Disorders: People struggling with depression, anxiety, phobias, addiction, PTSD, ADHD, etc. may seek therapy to treat the problem and/or learn healthy ways to cope. In many cases, disorders are treated medically in conjunction with therapy.
Distress: One way therapists determine the severity of an issue is to look at how much distress it causes the individual. For example, if you’ve found yourself empty nesting this fall, you may be distressed about your child leaving home for college, while others may be delighted. If the level of distress is prohibiting your ability to sleep, eat, socialize or enjoy life, therapy may be a healthy option.
Support/Coping: Loss is a common reason for people to seek therapy. Therapy can provide a safe, supportive place for people to talk about grief, adjustment to physical illness, the end of a relationship or job, abuse issues, or any change in life circumstances that cause distress. Therapists offer coping skills to get through these times.
Communication: Many people come to therapy looking for help with their relationships. Individual, couples or family therapy can address a common source of distress: poor communication and difficulty resolving conflicts. Some therapists are highly skilled at helping people communicate their needs and feelings constructively.
Self-Exploration: Some people come to therapy to gain a deeper understanding of self. They want to know why they do what they do, why they feel what they feel and determine how much control they have over those areas. Sometimes this exploration is used to determine career, relationship and personal goals.
There Is No Shame
I can honestly say that I have experienced 4 out of 5 of these reasons over my 30 years as an adult. Becoming more skilled in each of those areas continues to enrich my life daily. I couldn’t have done it without the proper tools given to me by my therapist.
Over the last 10 years, our society has come to embrace our mental health a bit more than in the past. That being said however, we are still a society of people who stigmatize mental health issues or the need for therapy. Look at it this way, would you diagnose yourself if you had chronic stomach pain. You may find something that works as a bandaid approach, such as using antacids or pain relievers, but you can’t fix the actual problem because you’re not a doctor and you don’t have the tools. If you’re struggling with depression or certain stressors, you can use the bandaid approach here also, alcohol, drugs or ignoring the issue (hoping it will go away). You might feel better temporarily, but again, you’re not addressing and fixing the problem because you don’t have the proper tools.
Live a Full Life
If you feel as though you could be happier, more fulfilled, have a better understanding of your behaviors, or you just never worked through that break up two years ago, let me encourage you to seek the help you need. You will be amazed at how you can unlock your potential and find a healthier you. If I can help guide you in any way, please feel free to reach out to me. Everyone deserves a full life!