I started therapy when I was 15 years old.
I remember sitting in that small room and reading the quotes on the walls, looking up and down the bookshelf filled with board games and watching the light filter in through the thin curtains.
I was talking about how I wasn’t excited for my 16th birthday. My “sweet sixteen,” which my friends and I had been planning since we were ten years old. And when I really thought about it, I wasn’t actually excited about anything. Hadn’t been in what felt like a while.
And here I was, telling these things to a middle-aged woman I’d never met before. For someone who already had anxiety, this wasn’t exactly a fun time.
Now, at almost 19 years old, I’m so incredibly thankful for that awkward first meeting with my therapist. I’ve come to believe that everyone could benefit from seeing a therapist, regardless of who you are or what “problems” you think or don’t think you have.
Therapy has grown to be one of my most valuable resources and, before I started college, was something I greatly looked forward to every week.
I realize this sounds like a sales pitch, but really, the only person you’ll be helping by going to therapy is yourself. So, cue the commercial break, because here are five reasons everyone can benefit from therapy.
1. Making a new friend
Everyone’s relationship with their therapist is different, but for me, it resulted in a sort of friendship. I was able to build a connection with someone outside of my daily life who really, genuinely cared for me. And it was beyond priceless. She challenged me, and while at times I felt like I could fight her (if she’s reading this, she knows I love her), I always came out better for it.
2. Fixing problems you didn’t know you had
I was always amazed by the connections my therapist could make. She’d listen to me tell a story, and I felt like she’d had it all mapped out in her head. She’d make a simple observation (Think: “You apologize a lot. Why?”) and it was like puzzle pieces began to fit together in my head. While I’m not convinced she’s not a wizard, I’m amazed by the intuition that counselors have.
3. Getting to know yourself better
Not only have I gotten to know myself better, but I’ve also been able to mend my relationship with myself. I’m able to identify my “triggers” and focus on my needs. I’ve become better at knowing how to help myself (see #5), and it’s made a huge difference in how I perceive myself, especially when regarding self-talk. I’ve come to love therapy even when I’m not in a period of emotional crisis or distress. You don’t have to be severely depressed to see the benefits of therapy, or even sad on the days you see them. Therapy gives you insight into why you act how you do, thus helping you find peace in everyday life.
4. Your friends and significant others aren’t therapists
This one was particularly hard for me to learn. I even had a boy break up with me because I was “too sad.” Total dick move, but it made me realize that you can’t pile all of your insecurities and issues up on other people. They’re not therapists, and they shouldn’t be expected to act as such. Friends should not be obligated to take on this pressure, because ultimately, everyone has to take care of themselves first. But for therapists, it’s literally their job. Therapists are trained to be able to help you work through your problems in a healthy, constructive way, making them the perfect outlet for all of your deep concerns.
5. Building your toolkit
Perhaps the most drilled-into-my-head concept I’ve gained from therapy is the elusive toolkit. Otherwise known as the collection of skills and coping mechanisms you can use when you need to. As a freshman in college, this concept has been extremely beneficial to me. For me, it includes things like breathing exercises, physical activity or writing. Everyone’s toolkit is different, and a therapist can help you find which “tools” work best for you.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.