I’ve been wanting to write a blog on this for the last few months, but I’ve been struggling on where/how to begin.
But it weights on my heart and mind because therapy has changed my life and because of this, I decided to change my ENTIRE CAREER CHOICE in order to become a therapist myself (one day, still working on that degree).
I understand there are still people out there who think therapy is bust. I understand there are people out there who are surprised to hear you don’t have to fight this battle in your head on your own. I understand there are people out there who would prefer to grin and bear it. But I didn’t realize some of those people were also the closest people to me.
“Don’t therapist just listen? Thats all they really do, right?”
“I don’t need someone to ask me, “how does that make you feel”, I know how it makes me feel.”
See, at fist these comments made me angry. I wanted to scream: “Do you think I paid $100s of dollars a month for someone to just “listen”. Do you think I’m paying thousands of dollars to get a degree to just ask “and how does that make you feel”?!
But then I had to take a massive step back. I’m making this situation about me and its 100% not about me. Not only do they genuinely need informed, but they might not be personally ready to change or reach out for help. And in that sense, I am called to support them and be there to educate them.
So after I was asked one of these questions for like the 3rd time by a loved one, I decided, I really needed to find a way to explain this. But its hard! I referred to my school books and even read articles online and they were super helpful! But so full of clinical lingo.
So I’ve decided to share about my own personal experience, which leads me to explain a few other things before I get started:
1.) I went through 3 different therapist before I landed on the therapist I truly connected with. This means not only did we get along and I felt comfortable with her, but her approach to therapy worked beautifully for me.
Meaning, there are so. many. approaches. to. therapy. When looking for a therapist, keep this in mind! Just because you visit one and don’t feel it, don’t give up! Also, share this with them, they may be able to try a different approach with you. They are learning you too!
I thrived with a pyschoeducation heavy approach. For some reason, learning the “why” behind everything helped me tremendously. I also wanted a therapist who was based in faith. I wanted to grow closer to my Lord and Savior during this time of pain and suffering and she was able to support me in this.
Not all therapist do this and thats okay! I just wanted to share because I wanted you to know there is a type of therapy out there for you!
2.) My therapy and experience is solely based off of generalized anxiety disorder. That being said, if you have another disorder, or if you’re just looking to get your thoughts straight (also 100% acceptable) your therapy may look different 🙂
3.) I did not start off on medication and my therapist did not push me to medicate. However, she did explore this option with me when therapy alone wasn’t helping. THIS is because my brain was so full, I couldn’t calm it enough to take in what my therapist was teaching/telling me. This doesn’t mean you will need medication! But if you do, it is helpful.
When I started mine, not only did I FINALLY get the relief I needed, but I was then able to take in everything I was learning in therapy. I was able to practice the skills she was teaching me and I was finally able to fully present in sessions. Medication was just a buffer so I could learn the skills I needed. CURRENTLY I am cutting down (after 4+ years) and I love that I am able to refer back to my skills I learned in therapy as I am coming off.
4.) I chose to have therapy once a week in an office with my therapist! But y’all, there are so many options nowadays! You can to it twice a week, once a month, every other week, in person, via skype/zoom, via telephone, anything!
Okay, let’s begin on my experience.
How did a typical session work for me?
I always began my session with my therapist checking in. She would ask me about my week and time was since our last time together. This never changed. This is how she always began out therapy. Sometimes I would word vomit everything. When this would happen I noticed that she would focus in on the one topic that affect my body language. Whether that be me telling a sad story while laughing, or start fiddling with a hair bow when a certain topic came up.
As therapist, we are trained to focus in on the small body cues. Body language is huge in therapy and noticing it is important.
This always caught my attention because 9/10 I never realized I was doing it. She would notice this with me. Which would get me to think, why am I reacting this way? This would become a discussion. One I always led.
Therapy is always client led. Which, yes, meant some session were a lot more silent than I would’ve liked, but I learned in that, that silence makes me uncomfortable. That was also something I was able to unpack and learn about myself.
One thing we always practiced in my sessions was being able to speak up. Believe it or not, I’m not great at that. My therapist would have me pretend a certain someone was in the room and she would have me practice having the conversation I never got to have. This was oddly anxiety fueling because even though the actual person wasn’t there, I was pretending they were. But why was this helpful? Because my therapist was there to fully support me. I wasn’t alone in this scenario and she would help me find the words. She was also there to bring me out of that heightened state of anxiety, and process how that went before I went home. I never went home heightened.
Talk therapy worked best for me. I guess because I love to talk.
(This scenario is an example of what was used best for me. I am not saying this will be used in your therapy. I’m giving examples to show that therapy is WORK, not just listening.)
My therapist was also great because she allowed and even encouraged me to bring my husband in on our sessions. These were some of the best conversations I’ve ever had with my husband because we got to truly learning each others hearts. Not that this wouldn’t have had happened without therapy, but we did have a third party there, supporting both of us. We learned about the infinity wheel, and how sometimes couples get stuck in certain fights and have the same fight over and over. As newly weds this was important because we were experiencing this. She explained to us that in order to move past our “stuck-ness” we needed to dive deeper. WHY was this topic so important for us to constantly come back to. In our situation, we learned our fight was deeply routed in fear. After working through this, and learning this about ourselves, we were able to see each others thoughts differently…with more understanding and empathy. It was no longer surface level arguing over something we THOUGHT was minimal.
One last thing before I wrap up, therapist don’t give advice (at least not without permission). When I first started therapy back in the day, I thought I’d get all of this lovely advice on how to fix my life. But that is not what therapy is about. Therapy is about learning YOURSELF and working through your own demons, traumas, and/or roadblocks. Your therapist hasn’t always experienced what you’ve experienced, so they definitely can’t give you advice. But they can help you in a PROFESSIONAL way.
You don’t have to do this alone. I know thats the new fad right now. This growing fad of wanting to be independent and save yourself. But friend, you are just going through so much extra suffering than you have to. Believe me, I tried that. I tried to do it on my own via yoga, praying, good eating habits, and a routine. And that may work for someone, but listen to me, you can not “healthy routine” your way out of anxiety. Is it a good addition? 100%. It will definitely help. But you NEED someone.
WE NEED PEOPLE. God did NOT create us to be alone.
You may have the most supportive spouse in the world, I know I do, but I can’t expect him to carry my burdens. They are too heavy for me, and they are going to be too heavy for him.
A therapist is trained to hold your burdens, to help you hold them. They are trained to not carry them around. They are trained in boundaries.
You yourself may not need therapy and thats great! But please help spread the truth about therapy because chances are, someone in your life would truly benefit from it, and they just have the wrong information.
“Some many people are locked inside themselves, wondering why the can’t feel, can’t get out of their own way, or can’t make a decision. It’s because when they shut down the dark or discomfort, they also shut down the light and love. You can’t live your life in the space of indifference, addiction, or numbness. It’ll keep you locked away from the world you inhabit but won’t or can’t even feel or know.” – Victoria Erickson
Currently Reading: A Praying Life by: Paul E. Miller
Currently Listening: Relatable. Podcast by: Allie Beth Stuckey