December 2020

WHO Needs A Therapist? I scream, you scream...

Author: Linda S. Hopkins

For many people, including me, two of the hardest words to say are: help me! But they are the two words that have the most potential to positively impact your quality of life or perhaps even save you.

It was a Friday afternoon in 2002. I was at work when I fell off the deep end. Paralyzed by feelings of overwhelm and sadness, crying uncontrollably, thankfully someone threw me a lifeline. It was my boss, Lori Goodridge, who wrapped her arms around me and made a call to someone she knew who could help.

It’s not as if I hadn’t seen it coming. As a new widow dealing with grief mixed with job stress, lack of sleep, and a whole new set of social and economic circumstances, who wouldn’t be out of sorts? But stubborn old me thought I could handle it—until I couldn’t. Depression had crept up and then lunged at me like a serial killer on a dark corner.

Ever the survivor—the strong, empathetic, mostly cheerful person others often came to for perspective, comfort and advice—asking for help did not come naturally for me. But this time, I was on my knees, and I knew I could no longer go it alone.

Enter local psychotherapist, fiery redhead Jocelyn Evans, who, over time, managed to walk me back to the light. While she couldn’t change my circumstances, she listened intently and with compassion and asked thoughtful questions. She brought a fresh perspective to my tangled emotions that simply wouldn’t have been possible by hashing out my problems with a friend. Through a process of connecting a few dots between past and present traumas, she gave me the tools to cope with the changes I was facing and helped me muster the courage to make some necessary decisions to save my own sanity. She also suggested medication and referred me to a doctor who prescribed an anti-depressant and something to help me sleep. These were temporary measures to get me through the crisis, and within a year, I was medication-free and back to a healthier, happier me.

Since that time, I have seen Evans off and on as needed to vent and clear up any murky thinking: after the sudden death of a beloved pet; when sorting out marital conflicts; when faced with a financial loss; when challenged by physical difficulties; and when disappointed in people. All of these were situations I could have slogged through on my own but where the process of therapy shored me up and helped me navigate with less angst and more grace.

So, who needs therapy or counseling? The long answer is people experiencing emotional difficulties affecting their lives. The short answer is everyone at some point in time. Whatever you do, if you are suffering from a mental or emotional predicament that is interfering with your quality of life, make an appointment to see a licensed psychotherapist. Remember, there is no shame in asking for help. The real shame is going under while the life preserver is within reach.

Overcoming the objections
Here are eight common reasons why people shy away from therapy or refuse to ask for help and some strong support for getting past those objections:

1. I know what I need to do; I just need to pull up my bootstraps. Many of us suffer needlessly because we don’t have enough motivation to take necessary actions to improve our situations. A therapist can help you clarify your goals and create realistic strategies so that you are empowered to do what you need to do to feel and function better.

2. It is awkward and embarrassing to tell a stranger about my problems. Many of us are hesitant to share personal information, dark thoughts, and true feelings with a stranger. It helps to remember that your therapist is also human, with his or her own set of problems, but with the professional training and expertise to help you process the emotions that are causing distress. Nothing you say will shock or surprise a trained mental health professional, and everything you say is strictly confidential.

3. People will think less of me. What other people will think is a common concern. If you come from a culture or a family environment where seeking therapy was viewed negatively or seen as a weakness, it is important to step over or around that barrier. Afterall, the smartest, healthiest, most well-adjusted people know when to reach out for a helping hand.

4. I should trust God and get my help through prayer. Spirituality is a powerful coping resource, giving you extra support through prayer, devotion, and meditation. You may also gain communal support through church or another spiritual affiliation. But having faith in a higher power does not mean that you will never face difficult situations that call for additional encouragement and healing. If it is more comfortable, find a therapist who shares your religious and spiritual beliefs.

5. My life is pretty good. I shouldn’t complain. Seeking therapy is not a matter of complaining. It is driven by acknowledgement of vulnerability and the desire to live a better life. Therapy requires a state of openness that leads to personal growth and healing, regardless of the size or scope of the problem that brings you to it. Therapy can serve as both intervention and prevention.

6. I have friends who can listen to my problems and give me advice. Unfortunately, no matter how caring and supportive your friends may be, they are not trained mental health professionals who can help identify the roots of your problems and their negative impact. Friends may also be inclined to agree with your perspective, which can lead to getting further stuck in a negative mindset. Therapists can offer a neutral, unbiased view and identify behavioral patterns and mental health issues that may be overlooked by someone close to you. They can also design effective interventions to guide you through to recovery.

7. Talking about my problems is not going to fix them. Talking alone is not going to change your situation, but it is a starting point. Admitting to and articulating your struggles is a first step towards resolving them. The freedom to vent feelings and express opinions as someone listens supportively and asks clarifying questions is healing in and of itself. And if medications or further interventions are needed, a therapist can refer you to appropriate resources.

8. Therapy is too expensive. Many insurance plans include mental health coverage that pays a percentage of the cost of treatment. If you don’t have health insurance or your plan does not cover counseling, ask the therapist if he or she can offer some discount or work out a payment plan to make it more affordable. Alternatively, contact
NAMI Lowcountry, our local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, at (843) 636-3100. NAMI offers free mental health support and education. Get more information about programs and services at namilowcountry.org.

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