My experience with therapy

by - May 30, 2021

My experience with therapy in a swirl. Waves and blue circles on a baby blue background.

I’d never had therapy before this year. In hindsight, therapy is something 14-year-old me should have done. But, I was too embarrassed about it and the thought of asking for help filled me with absolute dread. So I always pretended to feel okay when I wasn't and managed to avoid ever going. I was able to get out of the difficult period by myself, but I know I could have done with some support. Fast forward to now, and I no longer feel embarrassed about the prospect of going to therapy or being in therapy, but taking the steps were still daunting. I am writing this post to reassure someone who is nervous about seeking therapy, remind you that you are not alone and normalise being in therapy; therapy is no different to going to the doctor when you feel physically ill.

Before starting therapy, I remember feeling nervous about it and I wish I had had more information on what it was like beforehand - knowledge more than the superficial "it involves talking". 

Acknowledging that your mental health isn’t where it should be or that something isn’t quite right is scary. Taking that first step is very daunting and in my eyes one of the hardest parts. With mental health because it’s not so tangible, sometimes it can be hard to spot and may not be immediately obvious to you. There’s a danger of thinking it’s just in your head and not real or not that big of a deal. Mental health is not always like physical health where for example you’ll feel pain in your leg so you know something is wrong with your leg. Mental health is not as visible and ultimately you’re the only one that can truly feel the extent of it, and when it is maybe something more than feeling down. It can be hard to know where the line is for what is no longer okay. When it’s time to take a step and ask for therapy or help. For me, it took some time to realise and feel ready to reach out for extra support because I’d normalised not feeling myself. When I was in that position, I didn’t really know what to expect from therapy. I knew the basics in that it involved talking about how I felt, but nothing more. I hope that me talking about my experience can help someone else in similar shoes or even to feel less alone in taking those first steps.

I’ve had various therapy sessions now so feel like I am now in a position to talk more about my experience and what it has been like for me. Therapy will be different for everyone because the point is that it is tailored for you so your experience will never be identical to someone else's. I know my therapist is using a mix of counselling and CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). There are many different types of therapy and some may work better than others.

Main takeaways from my experience with therapy so far:

  1. It’s not just talking about how you feel. I think there’s a general perception that all therapy entails is talking about how you feel. Whilst of course it involves talking about how you feel I’ve found therapy goes a lot deeper than I had originally thought. You explore links between experiences you may have not realised that may be significant and really map out how different things have led you to where you are now. Not just what you feel but your different thoughts, and how that can also have physical symptoms. You may also look at changing damaging thought patterns or techniques to help relax you or deal with stress better.

  2. Therapy doesn’t work straight away. After a few sessions, it can feel like therapy isn’t doing much. You can feel like you’re not sure where it’s leading. I remember I was not really sure what therapy was doing for me the first few sessions. That’s because therapy takes time, and nothing will change drastically from one day to another. But, over time it helps. For me, after a few sessions, I found that certain things started to click and I was able to spot patterns in my feelings and behaviour I wasn’t able to as much before. Become much more conscious about the way you acting and why. How that is connected to what you are going through.

  3. It's okay to have moments of silence and not tell your therapist everything straight away. I felt a pressure when I initially started therapy to state absolutely everything all at once and open up completely. I sometimes felt bad that were some things I found harder to talk about so did not really mention them in as much detail. You are in therapy for a reason - if you found everything easy you wouldn't need to be in therapy. Therapists are aware that talking about certain experiences will be more difficult for you and take more time.

  4. Your feelings and emotions have to go somewhere. Therapy for me has been a lot about learning how to connect to emotions I did not initially realise were present and how to better manage them. I have been through a lot of difficult experiences that resulted in me blocking out feelings as a coping mechanism. But, that in the long run does not work and emotions have to come out in some way sooner or later. Whether on purpose or not, there is only so long you can repress something.

I know that being able to access therapy in itself is very lucky and that not everyone is able to access the support that they need. However, if therapy is an option for you and you know in your heart that you are not doing amazing on your own, take that step. I know it is scary, but it helps long term. Take this as your sign. ✨

Keep me caffeinated so I can write more 🙂:

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