What comes to your mind when you think of therapy? I used to think it was a bare room with a couch, a dry professional with a clipboard, and an endless loop of “and how did that make you feel?” questions with no real conclusions to be drawn within an hour. I also sometimes get defensive with people in authority, let alone when it’s someone that knows deep things about me, so it took me a long time to come around to the idea of therapy.
The reality of therapy during a COVID era looks quite similar to the photo above. It’s usually me taking a deep breath at the end of the day, finding a comfortable spot in my house to snuggle up with my Boston Terrier puppy Luna Mia, and answering the phone to a warm and cheerful voice asking me how my day has been.
Sometimes, my response is filled with joy and I am eager to share all of the happenings I had encountered since our last call. Awkward first dates, quirky Luna Mia moments, funny memes, etc. Other times, there’s about a forty five second window of forced niceties (Hey, how are you, I’m fine, you?) before I start tearing up and unload the emotional turmoil I was facing that day or that week. I’d like to think the second scenario is less common, but each week is truly a gamble.
My previous thoughts on therapy were not incredibly positive, if I’m being honest. But it’s because I didn’t truly understand it or because I expected a major life change after one or two sessions. It took me a few sessions to find someone I was comfortable with and a few after that to truly start working through my own life occurrences. However, I am a better person, friend, partner, sibling, etc because of it. I feel more fulfilled by my interactions and by who I allow into my life and I feel more confident in my own decisions because I honor my emotions and needs.
Therapy has been an additional asset in my personal toolbox to tackle life in a healthy way. It has given me permission to feel my emotions, to take care of myself, to say no, to say no thank you, and to invest in things and people that make me feel good. It has forced me to address my own self imposed timelines, limitations, and rules and to realize that there are other ways to define love, productivity, success, and comfort.
If you’re a single millennial woman in your 20’s or 30’s, you’re probably constantly being asked if you’re seeing someone or if you’re in a relationship. My response these days is yes, I am seeing someone every week for one hour and I’m learning how to build a better relationship with myself and with my future partner. Therapy has given me a safe, non-biased, and consistent environment to check-in with myself and with my past, present, and future and to have someone I can lean on about topics I don’t want to talk to my family or friends about yet.
Taking care of your mental health is a non-negotiable. But it’s not something you always have to tackle on your own. Currently, a large amount of insurance providers are also providing additional coverage for mental health services, so it’s always worth inquiring about. You can contact the phone number on the back of your insurance card and ask about their coverage for behavioral health services to get a better understanding of coverage.
Additionally, if you find yourself repeating the same types of unhealthy friendships, relationships, or overall patterns, a therapist is a great resource that can help you break down these repeated behaviors and understand where they stem from. Keep in mind, therapy is best utilized as a long term solution. One or two sessions might not allow you and your therapist to fully tease out the root of a behavior or life instance. It’s also not the responsibility of your therapist to fix your life for you. A lot of the work and benefit actually happens on your own time and you use your therapist as a check-in to say here’s what I’m doing and how I’m working through things.
At the end of the day, I felt so much uncertainty and intimidation when it came to talking about therapy. It felt like this out-of-reach concept that I wasn’t sure I would even benefit from and I couldn’t conceptualize what the first phone call would even entail. Some of my first “conversations” or awareness levels of therapy as an adult came from reading about my favorite influencers discussing their own process. Whether it was Kathleen Barnes from the blog Carrie Bradshaw Lied in her post Let’s Talk About Therapy or Hayet Rida in her Instagram stories and blog post The Plus Side of Dating, they both were vulnerable and open about how therapy impacted their relationships with themselves and with others. It almost gave me the permission to say, well if they’re doing it and it’s helping them, then maybe I can try it too.
Having spent over half a year working with someone, I can now say that I am confident it’s worth the investment in both your time and financial resources. We work with tutors to build healthy study habits, we work with a personal trainer to learn our way around the gym, and we work with coaches to become better versions of ourselves. Think of a therapist as an additional resource to support you in the process to a healthier life and state of mind.