Therapy can be daunting. Before I started going, and even for a while at the beginning, I was unsure if it would really be as effective and helpful as it was advertised to be.
Far too often, therapy is stigmatized. Whether it is because people are scared their problems are too small or invalid, their loved ones don’t understand mental health, or a fear of appearing weak by asking for help, there are plenty of reasons why people often hesitate to try therapy.
While my parents have always been incredibly supportive of my mental health and my efforts to focus on it, my dad especially grew up believing that self–sufficiency was of utmost importance, and thus asking for help was a sign of weakness. That’s why, although I first brought up the idea of therapy to my parents in the fall of my junior year of high school, I did not have my first appointment until the springtime.
It was only after nagging my parents about it and really trying to advocate for myself that I had my needs met. This was the first big lesson my therapy journey taught me, and it took place before I even had a session.
The first therapist I met with, I really liked. She was an art therapist, focusing on processing and healing emotions through making things. As someone who has always loved to be creative, this was right up my alley. Unfortunately, I had to stop seeing her after only a couple of sessions because of her hefty price tag, and the fact that she didn’t accept my insurance. It wasn’t until much later that I learned about superbilling, which meant that I had no choice but to find another therapist.
Luckily, the next therapist I tried was a much better fit. I saw her for a year and a half, and having access to her helped me get through some incredibly difficult times in my life. However, since she was located near my hometown and I moved hundreds of miles away for college, I stopped seeing her in the fall of 2021.
For a while, I thought that I would be fine without a therapist, though I quickly realized that this was not the case. I still had a lot of work to do on myself, and I didn’t realize just how much I needed therapy until a month after I stopped it.
It’s never overreacting to ask for what you want and need.Amy Poehler
Suddenly, my mental health plummeted, becoming even worse than it was when I first started therapy back in high school. I quickly realized I had to go on the hunt again — this time on my own.
A hard part about finding a therapist is that there is such a high demand, but a relatively limited supply. I finally found one that looked like she would be a good fit, only for me to email and discover she did not have any appointment times available. I tried another, just to find out she did not accept my insurance.
Instead, she invited me to join a three–week anxiety group through her clinic that did take my insurance. Desperate for any kind of relief, I joined the group. It turned out that the therapists I really liked were the ones running it!
At these sessions, I developed a good relationship with these therapists, and we ultimately figured out how to make an individual appointment work. And boy, did that turn out to be such a great thing!
I had definitely liked my first therapist (the one who I saw for a year and a half — the art therapist doesn’t count), but I loved this new one. There was immediately a level of comfort and trust in our relationship, both of which are so important in making sure you are able to learn, grow, and heal.
Something I really appreciated about her was how she would share personal stories relevant to my own, which helped me feel way less alone. It was especially nice to know that someone so experienced in mental health and wellness was susceptible to the same struggles as me.
Even though we only had sessions for about four months before I took a quarter off and she moved clinics, I firmly believe that we accomplished more in that time than I had in the eighteen months with my first therapist. That is in no way a diss to the first one, it just speaks to how important it is to find your right fit. I never understood why people made such a big deal about “shopping around” for the right therapist and not necessarily diving into sessions with the first one you see, but I finally realize how right they are.
If it weren’t for my advocating for myself and valuing my mental well-being just as much as my physical health, I would never have been able to learn and grow as much as I did. And, if it wasn’t for therapy, there is not a chance I would be where I am now.