How Do I Know if Therapy is Right for Me?"Therapy is cool, and you are worthy of getting the support you need."
OK, I have some bad news and good news. Which do you want first? Unfortunately, this is an article, and I can’t hear which you choose so I am going to give you the bad news first. Bad news is that the mental health stigma in culture has kept many of us in need and without help for far too long. There can be shame associated with seeing a therapist and there are so many barriers to mental health treatment to include cost, time, resources and lack of support and information.
As a therapist myself, when I see someone in my office (or on a video call) for the first time, it’s a very special moment. I know that for many, to get in that office or on that video call is a very big deal due to all the reasons mentioned above. Seeking therapy for the first time, or again and again, can be scary and overwhelming.
The good news now, OK? Therapy is becoming cool. When I say “cool,” I mean acceptable and supported. 1 in 6 Americans have entered therapy for the first time in 2020 alone. In 2019, it was estimated that around 40.2 million adults in the U.S. received mental health treatment or counseling at some time in the previous year and this number continues to rise with time. With the stigma of therapy slowly lessening and the access to care becoming easier, you might begin to hear some of your friends or family members speak openly about going to therapy. You might wonder, is therapy for me? People who go to therapy are not beyond the point of help, in fact, they are seeking help—which is incredibly empowering and a sign of strength.
When thinking about when to seek out therapy, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Do I feel like myself lately?
- How long have I not felt my best?
- How frequently do I feel a little off?
- How impaired is my functioning in my school performance, home life, friendships?
- How abnormal do my symptoms feel lately?
Severity, frequency, duration, personal distress, impairment in functioning and abnormality of your personal symptoms play into when to seek treatment for emotional or mental health concerns. Here are some signs and symptoms that you might see within yourself or others:
- Showing up late or cancelling personal and professional commitments
- Tired looking
- Disheveled clothing
- No longer enjoying work, activities or hobbies you typically enjoy
- Difficulty concentrating or focusing while at home, school or work
- Anger or rage
- Thoughts racing or mind going blank
Mental illness is not a choice. It’s a complex process of environment and your own biology. You deserve to take whatever time you need to attend to your needs. Caring for yourself, perhaps through therapy, is an acknowledgment that you believe you are worthy and deserving of love, care and health. People are more likely to seek help if someone close to them suggests it. Now you know what those early signs and symptoms might look like. Suggest treatment and support for yourself or others if you have a sense of worry about yourself or someone you know. It will likely not be offensive to them. If they are truly struggling, calling out that you see them and acknowledge the struggle can be very honoring to them.
You might not always feel like your best self, and that is OK and normal. Therapy can support you by either looking at your past and helping you make sense of your upbringing or can give you practical steps to help you improve and grow in the present. Or it can be a million other things. You can always change the narrative you believe; it’s very special to have someone come alongside you in that journey. We are beginning to value mental health and see it as important as other forms of health. This is an exciting time to be alive as mental health has been stigmatized and misunderstood for so long. Remember, therapy is cool, and you are worthy of getting the support you need.
Kendall is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She received her Master of Arts Degree in Marriage and Family Counseling from Asbury Theological Seminary. Kendall is a Salvationist who loves connecting with people through conversation. She and her husband, Caleb, and their children, Caroline and Jack, live in the bustling city of Atlanta.