What I’ve learned about talk therapy this year

Having talked with friends, Jessica has some advice on finding the right therapy and the right therapist for you
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Female patient talking to therapist on sofa

As we’re talking more and more about mental health, it is important to know the different ways to get help and support for your mental health. One of the most popular forms of support is talk therapy. Talk therapy is where you speak to a therapist about certain issues in your life, whether it is about the future, past, or present. Therapists are non-judgemental and are looking out for your best interest. Depending on the issue, you can get a specific type of talk therapy that suits you, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Psychoanalytic, or Solution-focused therapy.

So, here are some tips based on the experiences of people I know who are going to or have gone to therapy.

There are no “right” or “wrong” reasons to seek out help

There is no definition of the ‘perfect patient’ so, if you are thinking about going to see a specialist, definitely take the leap. Some reasons that people go to see a therapist could be family issues, depression, extreme exam stress or managing change.

Finding the right therapist for you

At first you may not have a connection with your therapist. Just like when you are making new friends, sometimes it can take time for you to get comfortable speaking to a trained professional. One of my friends said “When I first went to therapy, I did not feel that we clicked, and I thought that maybe I could see someone who was better suited for me. But once I got used to opening up to her, I felt like we were having more of a chat than anything else.”

However, if in a couple of weeks, you feel there is no progress being made, it is ok to look for someone new to speak to. In my own experience, I had been seeing someone to talk to about some personal issues who was not the right fit for me at all. He was cold, unwelcoming, and seemed unapproachable. Even though this experience was very disheartening, if I had stopped there I would not have met a lovely woman who was the perfect person to handle my situation. She made the atmosphere calming and made me feel very comfortable.

Another friend shared a similar experience with me. She said “I had to go through 4 therapists until I found the one I liked.” Once she found the right fit she was happy with her decision. “I think you can tell when you've found the right therapist for you if you walk out of every session feeling a little lighter, or like your thoughts are a little clearer.” It may take a bit of time to find a suitable therapist but, once you find the person who is the right fit for you, it can make the experience and your own mental health a whole lot better.

The First Step

Taking the first step in searching for help can be the hardest. Once you decide to go to talk therapy, it helps to get an unbiased opinion to help cope and can make the big things manageable. Just getting your fears and concerns off your chest can make you feel much better. One friend said that “She told me what I already knew but hearing it from a qualified professional made me feel better about my current situation.” At the end of the day, there is no harm in trying and making that first step can begin your recovery.

Shaking the Stigma

As a country, Ireland still has a stigma against mental health. In fact, The Journal reported that “65% of us believe that being treated for a mental health problem is seen as a sign of failure in Irish society.” In reality we are the ones who are brave enough to accept we need help and have the courage to take that first step. Talk therapy is nothing to be ashamed of, if anything it is to help improve your quality of life. To kick the stigma, we need to recognise that many people we know; brothers, sisters, friends, parents, teachers, co-workers, may be going to see trained professionals to work on their personal issues.

People of all different ages, races, and genders go for lot of different reasons. We still stereotype therapy patients because there is a lack of representation. To change this, we need to add ourselves into the conversation. Just because we do not talk about going to therapy does not mean that it is not happening. For many people, it is that we are too embarrassed to speak out about it but, that stops now. I am proud to say that talk therapy has been one of the most positive influences in my life and has changed my life for the better.

Talk therapy is a great way for people to speak out about how they are feeling. Of course it is not going to make the issues in your life magically go away, but it can help you to feel better about what is going on. It may take some time and a couple of tries to find a therapist who you like, but once you do it can give you a feeling of comfort and acceptance. As a student, I think it is also important to note that there are low cost solutions available if you look for them.

On a final note, for anyone who is on the fence about seeking help from a talk therapist, I would definitely recommend going. At certain points in our lives, we are going to face hardships and it is so important to speak to someone about what is going on. Even though at first it may be difficult opening up, once you do, it can help to make your burdens a little lighter and life a little brighter.

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