Therapy Answers: Effective? Too expensive? Do I really need it?

Hands - Counselling and Support

I remember going through some serious pain in my life and thinking about going to therapy at one point, long before I decided to become a therapist myself. I remember a few distinct mental blocks and fears that kept me from going (or from thinking I really needed therapy in the first place).

  1. I can handle this myself
  2. Bad times pass and so will this, right?
  3. It’s too expensive
  4. Isn’t this issue too big for just talking to fix?
  5. How can I know the therapist I find is a good one?

Being on the other side of the therapy chair now, I see many things differently and more clearly now, and I would like to offer to readers what my experience has offered me – some answers.

I can handle this myself:

I already know you can, and I mean that. You have inside of you everything that you need to overcome and heal from either part, or all, of this. You have what it takes already. The issue is that this wisdom, already inside your mind, often gets covered up, distracted, or you lose faith in it all together. It’s tough to know the difference between just having a rough season in your life and when your wisdom really needs a helping hand, and I can’t begin to answer that question for you, but maybe you can answer a few questions for yourself to figure it out. Take an honest moment and ask yourself this: Do I feel lost or don’t know the way out of this? Are the odds over 50% that this will repeat itself? Am I afraid to ask for help either because of shame or pride? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you are probably disconnected from your inner wisdom. A therapist could be the perfect person to get you reconnected and believing in your own brain power again.

Bad times pass and so will this:

I remember wishing this one to be true very often and, for me, it rarely came true. If I had to guess, the same can be said for you. Each time the issue comes up, it, or your attempted solution to it, is just different enough that you think this time it will work. I did this many times too. I compare it to sitting in a chair with one leg broken off and your feet in the air. If you balance just right, you can stay upright, but it takes too much work and life always tosses you off balance. You keep falling, so what do you do? Fix the blasted leg right? Tape, glue, screws, anything to put the old leg back on but nothing works for long because the strength of the original connection, that integrity between the chair and the leg, is gone forever. I have watched myself and many, many others beat their head against the wall trying to solve this problem when the solution is often very simple – get a new chair. Now, the purpose of a therapist is not to say, “Here, this is the new chair you have to sit on.” No, no, no. A therapist should (keeping this metaphor going) take you chair shopping, maybe point out a few chairs that won’t meet your needs and a few that do, and walk with you until you find a chair that fits you perfectly. I have had the honor of helping many people find chairs better than they ever thought possible. When this happens they always look back and ask, “Why did I delay even one second to do this?” In short, your bad times will certainly pass, but only if you make the changes that will last.

It’s too expensive:

Some of you might have great insurance plans and this point is a non-issue for you other than the effort it takes to make a claim. You are blessed. For those who have high deductibles, high co-pays, no insurance, or simply can’t afford a $20 co-pay once a week, therapy seems to get out of reach pretty fast. Before you walk away from the idea, ask yourself who is the one saying “no”. Is it the world of therapy or you? Many therapist work on a “sliding scale” meaning that they will adjust their price based off your income or situation. Lots of therapist do pro-bono work for tax purposes and you may be able to use that to your advantage. At the very least, there are always interns, therapists in training, who need hours of experience and are not allowed to charge for their service. One way or another, if you are persistent you can very likely find therapy inside your budget.

Isn’t this issue too big for just talking to fix?

Likely not. Talk therapy has been proven effective with many, many areas and issues of life. For example, narcissism is one of the most therapy resistant disorders out there, yet if the person struggling with narcissism is aware of this struggle and is willing to try and change, talk therapy can be quite effective. Talk therapy is proven effective in areas such as deep depression and anxiety, domestic violence, codependency, major addiction, bitter trauma, many personality disorders, and more. It is important to note that it is common for talk therapy to be even more effective when combined with proper medication for individuals with serious mental health concerns. Those situations show that therapy and medication working together can be extremely helpful for those who need it.

How do I know if the therapist I find is a good one?

Great question! Several things you need to look for (in no particular order of importance). 1: A good therapist is concerned about getting the best therapy fit for you, not just getting paid. Lots of therapist offer the first session for free because they want to meet you and find out if therapy with them is going to be the best fit for you or not. That is a great start! 2: A good therapist has their major personal issues resolved already. Most therapist get into this field because they have gone through tough issues themselves. This is a wonderful thing because it teaches great wisdom and grounding to that person which can be shared with you. Regrettably, some make it through all of their training without resolving their own issues, meaning that their own “stuff” will get between you and getting the help you need. Things to look out for: your therapist does not seem to really be listening to you on a regular basis, uses only one way to solve an issue (generally their own way rather than using the way that works best for you), or if they use an uncomfortable amount of self-disclosure (talking about their own life too much rather than yours). 3: Test your therapist knowledge about your particular issue. Share with them honestly about what the problem is and pay close attention to how they respond. Do they sound like they understand and know what they are talking about? Do they communicate hope for your situation? Do you respect what they are saying? If “yes”, then they are likely a great fit for you. 4: Always remember that YOU are in charge here. You have the right to choose whomever you wish for a therapist. We all know there is a therapist for every personality type out there and you should not settle on anyone until you feel they communicate in a way that fits you and you respect what they have to say.

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