Some people hear the word “therapy” and immediately recoil as they imagine laying on a couch while some man or woman, usually wearing glasses, attempts to talk them through their dilemmas. Where is the appeal in paying a complete stranger to listen to your most personal problems, right? Doesn’t it seem like it would be much easier and cheaper to just sweep our issues under the rug? Financially, yes. Mentally, absolutely not. Explore therapy, it actually has several benefits which is why it should be further explored as a viable option for treating mental health.
Provides a safe space
Psychotherapy or “talk therapy” refers to the encouragement of open discussions about whatever it is that is causing the patient distress (AKA the “couch in the therapist’s office” stereotype). But despite how cliché psychotherapy may seem to us in the movies, it has actually proven to be very helpful. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, 75 percent of those who participate in talk therapy experience some benefit. Part of this is because it provides a safe space to discuss your thoughts and concerns that may not have seemed valid to you or anyone else before. After all, some of us were raised to keep our true feelings and issues buried inside so as to not embarrass ourselves or our families. Therefore, people usually do not like the idea of therapy because their pride will not allow them to entertain the idea that they might need someone else’s help to work through their problems. Talk therapy works to combat that idea by inspiring self-exploration and self-awareness with the ultimate goal of empowering you to be your best self.
Improves communication skills
Therapy is not just for individuals as many people attend therapy sessions together, particularly couples and family members. Many of the issues that bring these parties to therapy results from a discrepancy in one area: communication. Therefore, one of the goals of therapy in this case is not only getting each party to express themselves and their issues in a respectful manner, but to also help each party hone their listening skills so that they may truly understand what is being told to them. This is where the therapist often has to serve as a doctor and a mediator to be able to get all parties to comprehend and revere where the others are coming from and decide how to move forward. From there, they are expected to use the healthy communication skills they learned and utilized in therapy in the midst of any other issues that they may have later on.
One of the best reasons to explore therapy is developing coping strategies
A big concern with receiving therapy is the fact that you only meet with your therapist a few hours out of the week. So, what happens during the times when something triggering occurs in your life and your therapist is not there to talk you through it? Well, part of therapy is developing healthy coping strategies to help you during those times and therefore, reduce your chances of relapse. One common coping strategy that is often used is the distraction technique. This strategy, true to its name, recommends indulging in other hobbies to help take your mind off of whatever problem you happen to be struggling with. These distractions can be listening to your favorite music, reading, watching a movie or show, or even doing a puzzle. Another coping strategy used is the mindfulness technique which emphasizes the importance of centering yourself through relaxation. This can be helped along with meditation recordings, yoga, or breathing exercises. Identifying and expressing your emotions is another coping strategy that is encouraged when dealing with an issue. This usually requires certain tools to serve as an outlet for your feelings such as a journal or your own artwork. This also helps to give your feelings or issues some form rather than keeping it all in your head. There are so many more coping strategies than these and they can all be very helpful to ensure that the positive effects of therapy will persist beyond your scheduled appointments.
Reduces the need for self-medication
When it comes to dealing with mental health, there has been a heavy reliance on using drugs to deal with it. But the truth is, these drugs do not always help patients necessarily “deal” with anything. They just mask their issues enough to allow people to function which is why there are some cases where people develop an unhealthy dependency on that drug. Therapy can help people actually face their issue, get to the root of it, and focus on ways to overcome it so that there will be no need for self-medication. Even health specialists are starting to notice the benefits of therapy when dealing with mental health. For example, the CDC has recently released a recommendation that behavioral therapy should be the first course of action when treating children who have been diagnosed with ADHD. This significantly reduces the risk of any unintended long-term effects that may come with using ADHD medicine, particularly for young children. ADHD is not the only case where this adjustment has occurred as the American College of Physicians also recommended that behavior therapy should be the new go-to treatment over medicine when it comes to treating insomnia due to the severity of the side effects that can result from taking sleep medications. Another example is seen when treating depression, one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 17.3 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in 2017, especially those between the ages of 18-25. While therapy has not been solidified as the first line of treatment for those diagnosed with depression, doctors are evaluating the possibility of using behavioral strategies instead of antidepressants unless it is a condition where prescribing medication is absolutely necessary.
Another reason to explore therapy is it offers new perspectives
One thing that usually turns people away from therapy is the idea that we have it all figured out. We know exactly how we feel, why we feel that way, and nobody can convince us otherwise. However, going to therapy can help you view your problems or even yourself in a completely different light that you may not have ever considered before. It can also help you understand other people and their intentions in ways that you may not have ever considered before. Oftentimes when we have spent years thinking about something or someone in a negative light, they become tattooed in our minds as the absolute truth which can lead us to make all kinds of assumptions that may or may not be true. But, hearing from someone else will allow you to reconsider the way you have been thinking about or dealing with a certain problem or person. It will also help people identify the negative thought patterns that we all tend to have and replace them with new and more positive mental habits instead! Once you start allowing yourself to see certain issues and the motivations of others differently, it reminds you to keep an open mind when dealing with any problem that may come in the future.
If you are looking for more resources and support with navigating life, check out Shaun T’s podcast, “TRUST & BELIEVE”, available on all podcast platforms and Youtube.