For decades, there has been a stigma against mental health. Whether the blame lies on misrepresentation in movies and television or just a general unawareness of what mental illness really is, it makes it hard to admit when you have a mental illness—and even harder to want to get help.
Before I started seeking help, I knew for a long time that I needed it. I was scared of what my parents would say, scared of what my partner would say if he found out, scared of what taking that step would mean: admitting that it really was a medical problem, and not just being sad all the time.
I was definitely skeptical, and really only decided to go when I found out my best friend who’s the epitome of success in my eyes was seeing a therapist as well.
It was in that moment that it clicked—there was nothing wrong with what I was doing.
In fact, it was me that was placing the stigma on myself.
So I went to therapy. And it did help.
But here’s the truth about therapy that I wish someone had told me before I started going:
There Are No “Breakthrough” Moments
Change happens gradually. Oftentimes in therapy, you talk about your current situations in libel. Sometimes you cry, sometimes you laugh, and sometimes you really don’t want to talk about anything.
But there is no pivotal moment when you finally understand the root of the problem and how to immediately turn your life around.
The point of going to therapy is so that you have someone to talk to—but that doesn’t mean you have to sit there and divulge every secret in your life so you can have your moment.
That being said…
It is Crucial to Be Honest With Your Therapist
Therapists and psychiatrists are there to help you. They’ve spent their entire young adult and adult lives learning how to help others—so you can believe it when they say they want to help you.
It’s crucial to be honest with them. Therapists have doctor-patient confidentiality for one, so you don’t need to worry about them going to your partner and telling him you need him to start cleaning the house more, or running to your parents and telling them you’re depressed.
Therapists are There to Talk, Not to Dictate
Therapists don’t tell you how to fix your life. It’s just not feasible to expect them to. However, they do more than listen—they are there to form a relationship with you and offer solace.
Once they get to know their patients, they take a more active role. Sometimes this involves exercises and sound/touch therapy, sometimes it involves taking a walk together and just helping you to relax.
Starting Therapy Isn’t the Hardest Part
Taking time to go to a therapist, and even taking that first big step in admitting you need help isn’t easy—but staying in therapy is the hardest part.
Admitting your problems and opening up to someone is very difficult, but know that it will be worth it in the end.
Change is also hard to come by, and it certainly doesn’t happen overnight. Know that by being in therapy, you are doing the best you can to change however.
And therapy doesn’t last forever—if you want to stop going, no one can force you to continue. Short-term therapy can be very effective as well.
Therapy Can Be Expensive…But There Are Options
Therapy can cost anywhere from $75-$200 per session, but there are many other options for help.
If you are in school or attending college, go seek help at the guidance counselor’s office or mental health clinics that offer free services on campus.
Group therapy sessions are always less expensive. They can be awkward at times and many do not want to be a part of the group, but sometimes it is nice to know that there is someone else that is going through the same struggle that you are.
Online therapy from licensed therapists is also another helpful option—and has the added bonus of being able to type what you want to say instead of having to face someone in person.
If you want to attend therapy sessions or see a psychiatrist, the first step should be to check with your insurance company or even get a referral from your general practitioner doctor. Sometimes, insurance companies cover the co-pays for you.
If you or someone you know is struggling and needs help, reach out to these national resources:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year)
National Alliance on Mental Illness: Call (800) 950-6264
National Institute of Mental Health: Call (866) 615-6464
(h/t Proud American Living)