In honor of WORLD MENTAL HEALTH DAY (10/10/15), my friend and colleague, Shannon Garcia, wanted to share her experience in therapyland. I've found that the biggest barrier to seeking therapy seems to be fear of stigma and unfamiliarity about the process. Shannon shares her personal experience with therapy and 5 reasons why it just makes sense! Read it here:
"Have you ever had something happen that generated a knee- jerk reaction of “I can’t wait to share this on Facebook!”? That was me recently. I found myself wanting to scream from the mountain tops, “I AM SO GRATEFUL I HAVE A THERAPIST!” No, I didn’t end up posting that. Not because I’m embarrassed, but because I knew the post would be way too long to be appreciated in the world of social media status updates. So here I am in the blogosphere, with a hopefully more captive audience.
I’ve always had a huge appreciation for mental health services. In 2010, my father passed away after 5 long years of congestive heart failure. When he passed, the relief and loss were equally tangible. I didn’t know the first thing about grieving, but because I’m a Type-A perfectionist, I knew I needed to get this whole “grief thing” done right the first time. As a student at The University of Texas Health Science Center, I was incredibly fortunate to have psychology services available free of charge.
I still remember my first session as if it were yesterday. In a few words, it was 50 minutes of tears (okay- really more like 50 minutes of ugly crying) with many words most humans would not be able to discern. Much to my relief, my therapist and I quickly built rapport and worked together for a year until he took a job in another city. By that time, I was quite pleased with my grief process and chose to not pursue a different mental health provider.
Fast forward to 2015. After a year into launching a small business, burning the candle at both ends and struggling with work-life-balance, I found myself on a comfy sofa once again. The sofa was different, but lucky for me, the counselor was the same. I have no idea if others have had similar experiences, but I feel so blessed that we picked right back up where we left off (but much less ugly crying this first session). This quickly became a safe place for me to unwind and regroup. Little did I know how much I would need this refuge just a few short months later.
Earlier this year, I found myself very much immersed in another end of life care scenario. This time around, I had the privilege and honor of caring for my stepdad in his finals weeks on this earth. For various reasons, and much to my surprise, this process proved to actually be more challenging than previous experiences with my dad. In fact, it was so difficult that I increased the frequency of visits with my therapist and even requested an urgent session to help me make it through a particularly hard day at my stepdad’s bedside. After that session, came my moment of wanting to announce to everyone on social media that I’m bursting with gratitude that I have a therapist - a safe space to go to clear my head, share my thoughts and even ugly cry.
So, for those that like less babble, and more organizational lists, here are the top 5 reasons you should hire a therapist:
- We hire professionals for everything else. Need a toilet fixed? Call a plumber. Need a tooth pulled? Call a dentist. Need to improve healthy eating habits? Call a dietitian (www.LSNutritionTX.com). Need to improve your fitness? Call a trainer (Rick Garcia). Need to confide in someone? Call a friend. Perhaps…but check out reason #2.
- Friends are well meaning, but not professionals. Some friends are fantastic listeners. Some friends give great advice, but there’s always a BUT. We want to and are capable of confiding in friends, but we often hold back because the BUT. “I want to tell her that he did or said this, BUT then she’ll think poorly of him….,” etc. Face it - there’s always going to be a “but,” even with the most stellar and supportive people in your circle.
- Preservation of relationships. Just like there are BUTs when wanting to confide in friends, there is also a need to keep friend time sacred. Whether it’s a happy hour, a jog or a shopping trip- even the kindest of friends don’t want to hear about an issue ALL the time. I’m not suggesting bottling up emotions, but if there are personal issues that require more than a month’s time of attention, consider working with a therapist or health coach (www.DrLindsayBira.com).
- They’re on the clock. This is a good thing. We tend to feel guilty or limited when talking with a friend or family member about our struggles. That’s normal and that’s also healthy to be respectful of other’s time. However, a therapist’s job is to listen, to coach, to help you think and process - and you’re paying them to do just that. So you can ramble or you can just sit there in silence; either way, you’re paying for it and shouldn’t feel guilty about taking their time. You bought it.
- Bias is a non-issue. This is tremendously important. A therapist isn’t biased and is trained to stay that way while employing strategies that have been shown by research to really help. Your friends and family want what’s best for you, BUT (see - there’s another BUT) they also think they know exactly what that is. They are emotionally involved in your circumstances and are predisposed to guiding you in a certain direction. A therapist wants what’s best for you, but helps you figure out exactly what you believe that to be. Now that’s powerful stuff, folks.
A huge thank you for those that hung in there with my ramblings and appreciation for therapy. This post could have been summed up with “I AM SO GRATEFUL I HAVE A THERAPIST!”, but that just wouldn’t cut it. Lastly, I didn’t address the stigmas surrounding mental health services. Personally, I think it’s ridiculous that psychological services are not more accepted by society. I’m happy to disclose to friends, family and even my clients that I see a therapist regularly, and I hope my transparency of this inspires others to do the same."
Thank you, Shannon, for sharing your story! Please share this post in support of World Mental Health Awareness Day. For those of you who have a friend who is hurting, check out my previous post on 5 Tips for Mental Illness Support.