When I realized I was struggling with my mental health, my doctor asked if I had "talked to anyone." Everyone knows that's code for "Have you seen a therapist?" I was wary about the idea of spilling my thoughts and feelings out to a stranger, so I politely dodged her attempts to get me to see a counselor and I pushed it aside.
Years later, when I got a point where I realized that spilling my guts to a stranger was exactly what I needed, I did some research and looked for therapists in my area that could be a good fit. Being new to the whole therapy thing, I had no idea what a good fit looked like, got overwhelmed, and avoided the issue — again.
Finally, after months of warring with myself and putting it off, I bit the bullet and opened my laptop, telling myself that I wouldn't shut it off until I found a therapist. I went through what seemed like a million websites and practices and ended up using a process of elimination to find someone I wanted to try. I knew I wanted a female therapist, I needed somewhere close to campus, and I needed them to be available on specific days that lined up with my class schedule. I didn't want a religiously affiliated counseling center, and I wanted someone on the younger side who had experience with several different types of treatments because I had no idea what I needed and I wanted options.
All of these criteria actually made it really simple and narrowed down my choices significantly. I finally picked one and made an appointment.
On the day of, I was really nervous. I don't do well with strangers and I, like everybody, had preconceptions about therapy. But I'm not kidding when I say that as soon as I stepped into the waiting area of the therapy office, the tension bled out of me. I hadn't even met my therapist yet, but somehow I knew I'd made the right choice. My first appointment went better than I ever could have expected and the subsequent ones just got better.
Don't get me wrong, some sessions are hard. There are tears and emotions and digging up the past, and not every appointment ends with me feeling lighter, or better. But as a whole I hadn't realized just how much I'd needed this, a neutral party to talk to and get tools from and cooperate with to work towards living as the healthiest version of myself. The techniques I use in therapy help me in everyday situations more than I probably even notice consciously.
Everyone, no matter the state of your mental or emotional health, can benefit from therapy.
We all crave understanding and want to be heard.
It's human nature. It's why we pursue relationships and need contact with other people. Therapists and counselors are trained to listen. They're trained to help you make sense of the thoughts you don't understand or the emotions you're feeling so strongly. They help identify the why — why you're sad, angry, emotional, indifferent, etc. Why you say the things you say and can't seem to help it. Why you cope certain ways. Why you take certain roles in relationships. Why you feel the way you do about yourself.
And trust me, knowing the why, working through the how, just having an explanation can propel you miles ahead in your recovery. It makes a huge difference knowing that certain things are happening in certain sequences in your brain and that's why you respond the way you do.
Now, obviously, a therapist won't have all the answers and won't fix all of your problems. But something I learned pretty quickly is that it's just as helpful to have someone reassure you that that's OK.
Even the most emotionally healthy people can benefit from having someone to talk to and gaining a better understanding of yourself and the way your mind works. You have no idea the difference it can make.
If you've ever considered therapy/counseling, or have put it aside because the thought of it scares or overwhelms you, or think it makes you weak, try and remember that the strongest thing a person can do is ask for help.
Maybe you think that you just don't need it, and maybe you don't. But just because it's not necessary doesn't mean it won't benefit you.