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How Seeing a Therapist Has Changed My Life

Regular sessions with my therapist have changed my life for the better; here's how, and how you can go about finding one and establishing your own mental health care routine.

therapist

Why I See a Therapist

I’ve had a lot of ups and downs throughout my schooling and career. Not just related to my profession and clinical practice (I’m a physician) but personally as well. In the past, it has crossed my mind that I should probably talk to a therapist, but then in some way or another I would get past my issues and life would normalize. Then I would move on and forget about it.

However, a few years ago, things were different. My mom fell sick, and while she was receiving treatment, the situation at my job started getting complicated, my group of friends felt like they were drifting away from me, and my relationship status went from bad to worse.

In the past, when one area of my life needed help, I generally could rely on the other areas to take care of themselves while I fixed things. This time, however, everything felt like it was falling apart…family, work, personal life, etc. Every time I turned around something was going wrong.

Everything seemed to be failing, and I could feel myself slowly going crazy. I felt like I was slowly losing control, not just of my life, but of my mind as well. I finally decided that I couldn’t go on, and reached out and asked for help.

Who To Turn To

Knowing who to turn to can be difficult.  There’s a stigma in society, in particular in medicine, around this wherein people are afraid to talk about their issues, or bury them, for fear that they will be seen as weak or incapable. 

However, there are people who recognize the importance of self-care and mental health. You just have to find them, and no this is not difficult. Think of someone you know and trust to be discreet; this is someone you can turn to, confide in and admit to that you need help. This person can be through your work or personal life.

For me, I contacted someone at work that I knew could keep a secret and wouldn’t judge me.  From there, I was referred to another colleague who pointed me towards the various resources that our institution has to offer those in my position.  In addition, I was given names and recommendations of therapists known to be reputable and trustworthy.

I used that list and made the first available appointment with a therapist near my home.

How You Can Find One

You can use the same approach to find a therapist as I did by reaching out to someone you trust at work and get recommendations. Alternatively, you can search through your insurance provider for a licensed professional. For anyone in healthcare, there are therapists who specialize in treating healthcare workers, so you can focus your search that way or you can simply pick one that has the first available appointment that you can attend. No matter what your approach, be sure to pick someone who’s office is close by your home. This will make it super convenient for you and you’ll be much more likely to stick with regular visits.

Another option is to use online therapy. There are smartphone apps that will connect mental health professionals to users in an instant and from the comfort of your home. You would have to do some research to see what kind of therapeutic options are available to you from these resources and I would definitely check their licensure and credentials as well. However, if you need to speak with someone right away, this is something to look into.

Overall, however, I do recommend that whichever method you use, that you ultimately see someone in person on a regular basis. There is no substitute for speaking to someone in person for your therapy sessions.

What To Look For When You Start Seeing a Therapist

While you should see one sooner rather than later, especially if you are struggling or going through a tough time, keep in mind that you still need to find the right therapist for you. A good match will go a longs way towards fulfilling your needs. Here are some things to look for when you start your visits:

  • You want someone that you find easy to talk to
  • You want a therapist that you feel comfortable and at ease with
  • Look for someone that has additional skills with different types of therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), as this can enhance your time and treatments with him/her
  • Make sure that whomever you choose is someone you find relatable, and who relates to you and your difficulties. It’s so much easier to open up if you think the person listening can truly understand your position and/or has been through what you have.

Keep in mind that therapists provide talk therapy and therefore do not prescribe medication. If you believe you have a problem that requires medical treatment, then you should shift your search to a health care professional who can.

Another thing to note: many therapists are MFT (marriage and family therapist) and also work with families and provide couples therapy and family counseling. If you have a family this is another level to consider, and something else to look for when choosing your therapist. What’s affecting you may well be affecting your personal relationships; having a safe place to discuss and process it can help both you and your family.

How Therapy Changed My Life

For anyone thinking, “I can just talk to my friends or family, I don’t need a therapist”…

Trust me, it’s not the same. It’s not just about venting and sharing your thoughts/feelings; it’s also the feedback and the questions that make you think about WHY you’re reacting and feeling the way you are.  A good therapist can help you dig down and figure out where you’re coming from, and HOW TO HANDLE IT;

How to take a step back and see a situation differently

How to separate your insecurities from who you really are

How to work on yourself so that you can move past your issues, deal with them effectively and regain your balance.

In each of my sessions, I have been able to unload my thoughts, feelings, doubts and fears, and I have been given mental tools to help me cope with my issues.

With each session, I am vulnerable and out in the open. It’s a difficult position to be in, yet it forces you to confront who you really are. As such, going through therapy is not easy. However, each session becomes easier and easier; once you’re armed with tools and an understanding of you are and where you want to go, each difficult situation you face becomes more straightforward to navigate through.

I’ve been seeing my therapist now for 3 years. She’s told me on multiple occasions that I no longer need to come as she thinks that I’m coping and adjusting well. However, I still go every other month. Knowing that I have someone to talk to on a regular basis is one of the most gratifying and empowering things I have given to myself.

Why everyone should see a therapist

Every person deals with stress. Yet, we are rarely given the know-how on how to deal with it. It is normal to need help to cope and process what you’re going through. Our experiences affect each of us differently, and, sometimes, we need assistance in figuring those emotions out.

And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Seeing a therapist does not necessarily mean you have a mental illness or mental disorder. It just means you are prioritizing mental health care and working through your issues in a healthy and productive way.

Another way to think about it…. how can we even hope to reach our patients, our families, or our colleagues if we are not allowed to reach down and know ourselves? How can we empathize when we are struggling to handle our own emotions and stressors?

Consider it Sooner Rather Than Later

If any of this rings a bell or makes you think of someone, then I encourage you to seek out or help your friend find, someone to talk.  Don’t wait.  There’s no right time to do it; there is no preparation or mindset to put yourself in before you do.  There absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.  

The last thing you want is for the mental stress you are experiencing to start affecting you physically and, ultimately, not only making you feel burned out at work but also get in the way of being present and living life as you should.

I sometimes wish I had talked to someone even back in medical school.  I could have learned coping mechanisms back then and maybe have changed the way I’ve dealt with things over these past few years.

If therapy is not something you think you can do right away, then, in the meantime, at least try to take steps toward self-care.  Take vacation time off.  Use a day off to do something other than complete chores and responsibilities; whatever you can/need to do to make yourself a priority and regain your balance.

Be strong.

In fact, you already are, so let’s keep it that way.

Be your own priority. 

Self-care, then care for others.

Be balanced.

Even if it means asking for a little help to get there.

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