Psychotherapy has become a popular and useful tool in the lives of many people. Therapy sessions are becoming increasingly more commonplace in the lives of average people seeking a place to talk, sort out challenges, and work through problems of the moment. There was a time when there was a stigma associated with therapy and people felt ashamed to admit that they needed help. It was considered a sign of weakness or a mental defect. Today, though, especially in major metropolitan cities like New York and Los Angeles, having a therapist is even trendy.
When people seek therapeutic help — whether short-term or long-term — it shows that they are committed to their mental health and well-being, and that they want to be the strongest, happiest, and best they can be. It illustrates that they are not afraid to look deep within themselves and work on their problems with a positive and fearless attitude.
Even though therapy is now an accepted part of society, it doesn’t mean that the decision to go to therapy is easy. For many people, the idea is daunting because they don’t know what to expect and because they are afraid of sharing their deepest, darkest thoughts with a total stranger. However, many of these fears are unfounded and they shouldn’t stand in the way of you and your happiness. Consider the following things you need to know about therapy:
You can pick who is right for you. Therapists are not one-size-fits-all, yet many people think that choosing a therapist is as easy as pulling out the phone book. Not so. It’s important to choose a therapist who specializes in the issues most pertinent to you (whether that’s anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, etc.) and to make sure that you feel comfortable with the person you choose. You want to feel open and safe in your therapy environment, and know that this person is compassionate and understands your issues. Some therapists might not be right for you. This doesn’t mean that the person isn’t a good therapist or that they aren’t committed to their field, but it could just mean that your two personalities don’t click. You can also speak on the phone with a therapist before you decide to come in for a full session, or you could only commit to 1-2 sessions before deciding to sign up for a whole host of appointments.
You can pick a therapeutic model that you prefer. There are many different types of therapy available. The most common is talk therapy, which is the therapy that you most often seen on television and movies. It is from the psychodynamic model of therapy that originated with Sigmund Freud; however, the days of lying on an analyst’s couch are gone. Instead, it’s a more comfortable, natural environment in which you can simply sit down and talk things out. You might start by unloading your feelings right away, or your therapist might ask helpful and encouraging questions to get you talking and to learn more about you. You can expect to be asked what your most trying issues are or what you would like to improve in your life.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is another school of therapy in which individuals are encouraged to deal with the most pressing problems of the moment and begin the work of changing the behaviors that create issues in their lives. Rather than focusing on all the reasons and family dysfunctions that may have impacted one’s life, CBT is short-term therapy that includes specific goals and homework to keep the client moving forward toward a specific goal. For example, if you have social anxiety, your therapist will ask you to think about what thoughts plague you when you are anxious (e.g., “No one at the party is going to talk to me” or “I know I’m going to embarrass myself”). You will then work with the therapist to further assess the issue and discuss it, and then you will discover tools and strategies to help treat that anxiety, such as learning how to replace those negative thoughts with more positive ones.
Medical options. For some people who suffer from chemical depression or anxiety, therapy can also be used in conjunction with medication, but medication is generally not advisable without therapy because it can treat only the symptoms and not the cause. Anti-anxiety medications can keep the anxious feelings at bay, but they can’t help a person learn why those anxious feelings exist in the first place or how to better control anxiety. Keep in mind, medicine can be prescribed only by a physician or psychiatrist, and in some locales by a nurse practitioner.
Lastly, the most important thing to know about therapy is that you get what you put into it. If you are open, hardworking, and committed to the healing process, you can experience some amazing changes in your life and in your relationships.
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