What is therapy? The concept is often shunned or twisted, being grossly misrepresented in society. “Shrinks” are considered taboo in many places. Talking about your feelings is seen as weak. Seeking out help is seen as “quitting.” But what if we shifted this narrative? Turned it inside out in a collective movement to make therapy the norm? Stereotypes and preconceived notions can keep us from resources that could potentially save lives.
Therapy involves using cognitive and behavioural methods in order to address psychological struggles, issues, or illnesses. There are a multitude of different types, including (but not limited to) cognitive therapy, behavioural therapy, relational therapy, family therapy, and so on. Each therapist has their own style and mixtures of different methods; combinations of varying forms of therapy are often highly effective. Deciding what works for you may take a few tries, but there is (without an inkling of a doubt) a method out there that will suit your needs effectively.
Therapy itself is a process: regardless of your situation, oftentimes things will feel harder for the first little while, then get better. We can compare this to drug therapy – our bodies have adjusting periods that can feel difficult, but once we overcome that, medication can be extremely helpful. Similarly, attending therapy can bring up negative emotions that can feel overwhelming – but it’s almost like a necessary mind purge. After this mountain has been climbed, the other side is not all flowers but rather a series of meadows with small hills in between. To get to the flowers, we traverse parts of ourselves that we’ve kept tucked away. We confront things that hurt, or simply talk out things that feel heavy – all with a trained professional.
Friends and family are important. They could very well be our rocks and compasses, standing with us through storms and holding us in more ways than one. Those people, however, cannot always be our lifelines. Individuals have boundaries and often limited emotional capacities – after a certain point, if someone is our only outlet, our problems may begin to affect them negatively. In these cases, having another safe space to express ourselves and receive help becomes crucial.
Therapy does not have to be a last resort; even if you have people to talk to, seeking professional judgment, advice, or expertise is entirely valid and may be quite fruitful. Mental health professionals can provide us with feedback and strategies that those around us maybe can’t. Waiting to seek help until our situations worsen, or our mental health deteriorates more can be detrimental; addressing issues at the beginning can provide a chance to prevent further hardship. Therapists are there to help shoulder any emotional burdens, provide advice and coping strategies, or just a trained listening ear.
The most difficult part, however, is often making the decision to go. Seeing a therapist is often culturally impermissible, whether due to our parents or peers or some unspoken rule. Breaking this barrier is inherent to our growth. We owe it to ourselves to show up for ourselves by taking care of our hearts when it feels impossible. Overstepping that mental block is the first step – it’s okay if you need a safer space. It’s okay if you want a place free of judgement. It’s okay if you want to explore your past or that one specific event or that one frustrating emotion. It’s all valid and you’re allowed to need or want external aid.
Therapy isn’t some mystical, confusing, final resort. It is a resource in place for you to ameliorate your mental state – whatever state that may be. You deserve to feel better whenever you feel low – even though feeling low is okay too. Psychologists, counsellors, and psychiatrists can provide clarity and a chance to work through trauma, or to heal anything that hurts. That healing will be a process, with support that may change your mindset, mental patterns, and potentially, your life. Mental struggles and illnesses are very real – and they have very real solutions. All we need to do is seek them out.
Here are some counselling/therapy resources to check out:
I am a second-year sciences student at the University of Alberta studying psychology and sociology. I’m a Pakistani-Canadian and a Muslim, as well as a local spoken word artist! I enjoy writing and reading and painting - artistic expression makes me feel at home. I love poetry - especially performing it - as it lets me put words to the feelings of others (and myself) that often go unspoken.