There can be many variables, moving pieces, and motivations that help you decide to start therapy. But once you’ve reached this decision, what happens next?
Today we’re going to look at some of the stigmas and stories we make up about starting therapy. The meaning we create around this process can be a barrier or a bridge to understanding ourselves and growing. I hope that this short post will help folks navigating the early steps of starting by providing some sort of affirmation as you begin.
Many times, when meeting with clients entering therapy for the first time, I hear one or more of the following:
“I mean, I’m in therapy so something must be wrong with me.”
“No one in my family/community goes to therapy…they must all be stronger than me.”
“Clearly I’m crazy since I have to come see you!”
“I’m not even sure I should be here. It’s not like I have real problems.”
“I think this (starting therapy) means I’m at rock bottom.”
And perhaps you too have had thoughts like this when considering talking to a mental health professional. So there are two specific insights I’d like to share.
The first is that ( as exemplified above) these thoughts are normal when reaching out for help. In so many ways, we have been taught that if we can’t fix the problem on our own then we are…weak, not trying hard enough, dumb, broken, wrong, unmotivated, selfish, ineffective, whiny, over-dramatic, too sensitive, self-pitying, crazy, codependent, a burden, lacking, less than, missing something. By reaching out, you are being a renegade and rebelling against these claims. You are going against a primal survival skill of not showing vulnerability. Try to remember: Works well for cavemen. Not as well for modern day humans. Because you’re going rogue, there may be naysayers and the loudest critics could be within your own mind.
Second insight is that most of my clients come in with one meaning for why they started therapy and end our work together with a different or fuller meaning. I remember working with someone who began thinking she was “losing it” and “having a breakdown.” When we reflected on these first session notes a year later she beautifully edited them to say she had come in “needing to shake loose the roles and rules that had starting suffocating me” and “did have to break away from the expectations that had been slowly killing me.” Try to remember: Our job is to be open and curious, to notice, to let meaning rise up from our observations. Curiosity first. Meaning next.
Next time we’ll talk the logistics of finding a therapist. In the meantime, if you have any questions please post a comment, reach me on FaceBook, or email me: KatieLCPC@Gmail.com.