From time to time, all of us feel mentally and emotionally burdened, be it from work, academic stresses, or relationships. It can be much harder to pinpoint it when your mental health is suffering compared to the times you physical ailment. Indeed, many mental health issues masquerade as physical issues – many find their anxiety manifesting as stomach pain or digestive troubles, shortness of breath, fatigue or a pounding heart.Increasingly, celebrities are helping to de-stigmatise mental health issues by raising awareness and sharing their own experience – it helps to know that mental health issues affect people across all spectra of socio-economic status, education levels and demographics.
Struggling with a mental health issue does not make one weak, or “defective” in any way – what matters more is maturity and resilience that one shows in dealing with it, like any other of life’s challenges.
Here’s more information for those unsure about what therapy is, and whether it is for them.
Therapists are mental health professionals
Therapists are mental health professionals, including professional counsellors or psychologists who use talk therapy to help their clients work through any personal issues faced by them.
Just as dentists are the right professionals to approach to help one diagnose and treat issues relating to teeth and gums, and generally improving one’s oral health, therapists help improve their clients’ lives by providing them with tips, tools and strategies to cope with life’s challenges, be it relationship issues, work-related anxiety or academic stresses.
Therapists help build emotional resilience
Therapists help develop emotional resilience and cognitive skills in their clients to alleviate distress and help them achieve their personal goals and potential.
They use different therapeutic modes to:
Therapy is for anyone
Therapy isn’t the only way to manage all mental health issues – different strategies work for people who want to maintain good mental health, including yoga, mindfulness and journaling.
However, if someone hasn’t been feeling like themselves for more than two weeks (for example, they’ve been sleeping a lot more or less than usual, feeling irritable and find themselves snapping all the time, feeling persistently low), a check in with a therapist may be the best option. You may wish to learn more about the warning signs to look out for.
Therapy is not reserved for only those clinically diagnosed with mental illnesses or mental disorders. It is common to ourselves feel like, “the situation is bad enough to go for therapy yet,” or hear this from your loved ones. It may be a good time to gently remind ourselves or those near and dear that things don’t have to get worse before they get better.
Therapists don’t tell us what to do
There must be a reason why we can’t help but feel anxious or depressed over a certain situation we are facing. There must be a reason why we may feel continuously helpless, or indulge in self-defeating behaviour.
Therapists are equipped with skills to help us gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and gain self-awareness. Good therapists don’t tell us what decisions we should make, or how we should feel about situations. Instead, they help us develop useful skills that we may not have had the fortune to inherit or stumble upon yet, that provide us with benefits over the long term.
Therapy is more than just having a casual chat session, or talking to a friend
We don’t just go for a session to chat with them about how messed up our lives are, or perhaps rant about difficult experiences.
It can get uncomfortable during therapy, because for any therapy to work the pre-requisite is that we must trust the therapist and open up our deepest wounds to them.
Therapists are professionals who help you achieve your personal goals. Your time spent with your therapist is focused on you – your hopes, desires and fears. It is not a two-way conversation with a friend.
Therapists are trained to be able to help you through your personal issues, without any bias, judgement or discomfort. They are also objective – having no personal stake in your decisions, perspectives or values, they help to uncover your true self to yourself.
They are also required to adhere to professional and ethical obligations, including that of confidentiality.
Therapy is a mature way of fixing a personal problem
Maturity shows when we are unafraid to accept our own trauma, grief and pain, unafraid and actively seek help before it affects us further. Our mental health issues can affect us in many aspects of life, least of all our relationships which often become strained if we don’t manage it well.
It takes a clear analysis of ourselves, coupled with strength and support from ourselves plus those around us, to be able to fight our battles.
By employing professional help, we are not only acknowledging that the issue is bugging us in some way, we are also working through it to find appropriate solutions.
The length and frequency of therapy varies
There is no rule around how long therapy will take – it would depend on the issues faced by the client, their personal goals and the improvement seen.
Some people find it helpful to think of the analogy of getting lost – if it has taken someone ten hours to walk into a thick forest, they can expect it taking some time before they’re out of the woods.
Time is needed for therapists to understand our personal story and history and progress looks different for each of us. Time is also needed for us to make changes in our life and break unhelpful patterns. Through these adjustments, a compassionate and committed professional who’s on our team can be helpful.
But therapy doesn’t last forever
Therapists certainly do not encourage long term dependence on them! It can be a lifelong effort on our side to work on the issues we face. But the therapist’s work ends when we have learnt and familiarised with the skills needed from them.
Depending on the type of therapy we receive as well as the complexity of the problems we face, the amount of time needed may vary from person to person, but there is an end to therapy.
Goals are always set so that we get a gauge of how far or how near we are from “the end”. These goals can be specific like being able to overcome insomnia or more broad-based like being able more self-aware, improve our relationships or better regulate our moods. Therapy would generally end when the client’s goals have been achieved.
Online therapy can be just as effective
The pre-requisite to this point is that they are conducted by professionals. As long as we are able to find a comfortable and private environment, talk therapy is still able to continue as per normal.
There are limited circumstances where in-person therapy may be more appropriate – eg where the place of trauma is home.
For a lot of us, the added convenience, anonymity and affordability when talking to the therapist via video-conferencing, voice call or live texting allows us to feel more at ease and thus improve the effectiveness of the therapy sessions.
Therapy is done differently by different therapists – and there is no one right way
There are many different types of therapists. It can be the type of therapy they do, their specialisation, type of mediums they use etc.
It is useful to note the difference between psychologists & professional counsellors. Psychologists use evidence-based strategies to diagnose and manage more serious mental health illnesses and disorders non-medicinally over the long-term.
Counsellors are highly skilled in applying integrative therapies to assist people in working through their personal and emotional issues.
People look for different things when deciding on a therapist.
The most important element that factors into the probability of success in the end is how much the therapist is able to attend to your needs and how much you are able to trust him/her.
It can be inexpensive, and more convenient!
It is true that the price of therapy is daunting for some clinics. But there are also many other more affordable options for therapy. Online counselling on Talk Your Heart Out is up to 60% less expensive than private in-person therapy.
Online counselling can be more time efficient as well. Not only will we be able to fit therapy sessions into their schedules more easily without having to take leave from work as after-work and weekend slots are provided, we’re also able to remove the need to travel.
Additionally, there will be no need to explain our stories once more when changing therapists/coaches within the platform, should we agree to allow our previous therapist/coach to share sessions notes.