Hey y’all, and hope you’re having a good week. In case you didn’t know, May is actually Mental Health Awareness Month. I’ve been wanting to do a blog post for awhile with more details about my experience with counseling for my chronic anxiety coupled with some depression. Even though May is almost over, I figured this month was a great time to share a little more about why I love therapy, and why I wholeheartedly encourage anyone who is considering it to go. Therapy is such a broad topic, and I honestly don’t know where to even start. This is honestly why it has taken me so long to actually write a post on it. So, I figured I would share a little more about therapy by debunking six myths about therapy. I’m including some misconceptions I once had about therapy, and how I now realize they simply aren’t true. In addition, I asked my Instagram followers last week what makes them anxious about seeking therapy. Thanks to everyone who helped me out and responded!
(Photo by Amelia Cassar Photography)
Myth One: Only crazy people go to therapy.
I can’t emphasize enough how absolutely FALSE this is! I went to therapy for the first time when I was 16. In retrospect, I should have sought counseling much sooner, but the inaccurate stigma of therapy being for crazy people prevented me from doing so. Also, during a recent session with my current therapist, I was having a particularly rough week. I said something along the lines of “am I complete train wreck?” Her response was something along the lines of “no one is a complete train wreck. We are all simply real people with real issues in need of a little extra help sometimes.” I wish I could remember her exact words, because they were really good. But you get the idea!
Myth Two: If I go to therapy, it means my faith isn’t strong enough.
This is another statement that is completely false! Throughout the Bible, Scripture says “do not fear,” or “don’t be anxious.” The reality is, we live in a fallen world. Nothing is the way it should be this side of eternity, and struggles with various health conditions are a result of the fall. Your brain and nervous system are part of your physiological makeup just like your respiratory or cardiovascular system. Many mental health conditions have a physiological basis. Unfortunately, we attach a stigma to them that physical conditions like heart disease or cancer don’t possess.
We never tell someone battling cancer “if you just prayed more or had a stronger faith in God you wouldn’t have cancer.” Therefore, there’s absolutely no reason to perpetuate the lie that someone wouldn’t struggle with anxiety and depression if their faith was stronger. As the body of Christ, we need to encourage one another to seek therapy if needed. We shouldn’t shame one another into running the other way.
Although ultimate healing only comes from Jesus, therapy is still a valuable tool God gives us. He has called certain people to a career helping others navigate difficult thoughts and circumstances. In fact, having a therapist who is a Christian can be a great supplement to prayer and time in the Word. God uses other people in our lives in various ways, and a therapist is a great example of this. My current therapist actually got her counseling degree from a seminary.
Myth Three: My therapist will examine me under a microscope and point out every little thing wrong with me.
Once again, absolutely not true. A good therapist will not judge, belittle, or shame you. And if they do, then don’t hesitate to find a new therapist! Part of the point of seeing a therapist is to have a trained, objective professional walk through your messy and complicated thoughts and feelings. They will ask you follow-up questions and often help you see things from a different perspective, but they won’t judge. I love that my therapist’s office is a safe place where I can say ANYTHING on my mind without fear of judgement. And since she’s an unbiased professional, I don’t have to worry about overwhelming her by dumping all my messy feelings out on the table.
Myth Four: It’s super awkward sharing all my deepest thoughts with a total stranger.
First of all, I’m not going to lie by pretending it’s not intimidating going into therapy for the first time and sharing all your deepest, darkest thoughts with a complete stranger. In fact, this fear kept me from re-entering therapy during two seasons of my young adult years. And believe me, the last thing I wanted to do prior to my first appointment with my current therapist was spill my complicated life story to yet another person, much less a complete stranger! But I was at any extremely low point in my life, and someone I respect and care deeply about told me I needed to see a new therapist ASAP.
However, once I got over that initial hump of trepidation, it was the most amazing, liberating thing. It may take you a few sessions to truly feel comfortable with your therapist, and that’s totally okay. However, I felt at ease with my current therapist before the first session even ended. She was so caring and empathetic and just helped me feel like everything was eventually going to be okay. I know almost immediately that she was a good fit and I wanted to continue seeing her. And now I’m just as comfortable talking to her as I am one of my best friends!
Myth Five: It will be impossible to find the perfect fit.
As you now know by reading my previous point, this definitely isn’t the case. Not everyone will know at the first session whether their therapist is the right fit. And I know some people who have seen a therapist for a session or two, determined it wasn’t a good fit, and tried another one. You may know immediately that your therapist is a great fit, or you may have to shop around a bit. If you are persistent, you will eventually find that perfect fit with a great therapist.
Although you can always google therapists in your area, I recommend getting a recommendation from a friend if you are able. I actually found my current therapist via a friend’s therapist. One of my good friends had been seeing her therapist for a few years, but she was about to retire. So I reached out to my friend’s therapist, asked her for recommendations for a counselor in the Durham area. I specified that I wanted a female counselor who was a Christian and accepted my insurance. My friend’s therapist then asked me to tell her a little bit about why I was currently seeking therapy. Once I gave her that info, she gave me a couple names. My current therapist was the top name on the list. I called and left a voicemail, and when my therapist called back she let me know she had an opening the very next day. The rest is history, and this was totally a God thing!
Myth Six: Therapy is always super expensive.
I realize that concerns about cost may be one thing preventing people from seeking therapy. People tend to prioritize physical health care costs over mental health care costs. If someone experiences shortness of breath or rapid heart rate, they will go to the emergency room ASAP. Yet if someone feels anxious or depressed, they don’t necessarily feel that same urgency to get to therapy ASAP. Although you may not physically die if you don’t seek therapy immediately, you will miss out on quality of life benefits. Furthermore, if you experience suicidal thoughts, they have the potential to be fatal if you don’t address them.
The cost of therapy is an investment that is totally worth it. However, therapy often isn’t as expensive as you may think. I’m not going to give any numbers, because there are many different insurance companies and insurance plans within companies. Many insurance plans do cover mental health counseling if you see an in-network provider. I am blessed to have good insurance where I only owe a co-pay each visit. That co-pay is actually less than an office visit for a specialty medical doctor. Even if you have to pay the full price of the session, you insurance plan may kick in once you meet your deductible. If cost is still an issue, many therapists will work with you on a sliding scale. Also, there’s some non-profits that offer counseling from trained professionals, and the cost per session is whatever you’re able to donate. Do yourself a favor and definitely don’t write off therapy because it’s too expensive. It’s worth it, and most importantly, you’re worth it!
Take the next step!
I hope that you found this post helpful. If you’re currently considering therapy, I hope that God used it to alleviate some of your anxiety about seeking therapy and to encourage you to take the next step. I’ve been seeing my current therapist for two and a half years, and have no intention of stopping anytime soon. I will share more about why in a follow-up post soon. There’s no “one size fits all” way to approach therapy, but it’s definitely a journey that you shouldn’t rush! If you have any questions about anything related to therapy, feel free to email me. I’m a huge advocate for counseling, and debunking myths about therapy is one way I do this!