Any of my close friends will tell you that I am not a proponent of therapy; I will usually head as far away as physically possible when anyone mentions a few things, and therapy is one of them. I had horrible experiences with therapists, both as a child and as an adult between the ages of 11 to 18. These experiences only exacerbated my trauma and pushed me further and further away from the mental health field.
I believed wholeheartedly that therapy didn’t work. I was also convinced that therapy was useless and that therapists were manipulative liars who were paid just to sit and listen and laugh at their clients (because one of my first therapists did exactly that). As you can probably tell, I avoided therapy like the plague.
I know this much: I am still wary, and I think I always will be. On some level, I know I still believe these things.
In seeking out therapy again in my early thirties, I did exactly what I was terrified to do: be vulnerable and risk re-traumatizing myself. The word terrified doesn’t even begin to accurately describe how I felt (and still feel).
I did not arrive at this decision lightly. It took years. Friends, family, and doctors tried in vain to try to persuade me to seek help. I refused. I was convinced that I didn’t need the support of a third party. I considered the addition of a third party to be an admission of weakness.
It is easy to cast the blame on the pandemic; although the pandemic certainly exacerbated a lot of the factors I was already dealing with, the pandemic did much the same for everyone.
5 Reasons I Finally Decided to Invest in a Therapist
I Was Going in Circles
It was a combination of factors that ultimately pushed me to seek out a therapist, but I think it ultimately boils down to one thing: I knew that I couldn’t remain the same. Everyone has things about themselves that they want to change, and I am not an exception.
As an Adult, I was Much More Knowledgeable
My experience with therapy as a child taught me that you have little to no agency in terms of your mental health care at that age, no matter how articulate you are; as an adult, that is not the case. Based on my experiences, I knew exactly what I wanted and what I was more likely to respond positively to.
I was clear from the beginning with the service I used: I wanted a female therapist who was also a person of color (ideally Asian American if possible). I knew what I wanted this individual to specialize in, and I also knew what sorts of methods I wanted them to use.
I also knew more about the legal obligations of therapists; as a child, I had been unaware of the laws that leave therapists obligated to divulge certain information in certain circumstances. That lack of knowledge and the mess that ensued immediately following a major incident was a key factor in my trauma as a teenager.
As an adult, having this knowledge and a clear hand in your mental healthcare gives you power and agency that therapists must respect. Having that power allowed me to view this relationship between myself and my therapist as a working relationship and establish crucial boundaries.
Your Friends and Your Therapist are Not the Same
While I will be the first to admit that I love a good catch-up chat with a friend over coffee, a friend cannot and should not serve as your go-to venting space.
Yes, there are psychological benefits to venting, but while some people may love when you vent to them (and perhaps even invite you to do so), that may not hold true for everyone.
As the person doing the talking, you might experience an overwhelming sense of catharsis, but you have no control over whether or not the individual listening to you is experiencing the benefits of venting.
Some people may be overwhelmed. Some may find it uncomfortable. You never know. Everyone has different coping methods and personalities; sharing personal things may strengthen your relationship with someone or strain it.
On the other hand, a therapist is trained to handle the question of how to maintain a strong client-provider relationship while assisting you in sorting through your emotions.
A Therapist Provides a Completely Unbiased Third-Party Perspective
It is easier (and a less expensive financial investment) to talk to someone you are close to. With that said, doing so can lead to problems down the line if you’re not careful.
Having a therapist there to support you allows you to have an objective perspective that can allow you to see the things you’re going through much more clearly.
I Needed Techniques, Not Space
When I look back on my past therapy experiences, I realized that I was really utilizing sessions to vent about the things going on in my life. I don’t remember said therapists offering me any sort of techniques to deal with my issues even though I expressed that desire to them as I got older.
Perhaps those therapists thought that offering me that space to vent was what was best for me at the time, but I know that that was not what I needed. As an adult, I understand that having a simple space to vent is not what I need considering where I am in my life currently.
Knowing what I need has pushed me to make the conscious decision to invest in someone who can give me a balance of listening to me and validating my emotions while also giving me the techniques and skills necessary to navigate my emotions in a healthy manner.
Therapy is an investment, both financially and personally. It can feel like a risk, especially for those like me who have had negative experiences. Everyone’s motivation for seeking therapy or any other sort of mental health care is different.