Everything You Need to Know About Therapy

When people hear the word “therapy” in regards to mental health, they tend to imagine a spectacle-eyed professional holding a clipboard with one leg draped over the other, leaned back in their chair as they listen to their client, who is lying down comfortably on a couch, talking on and on about the problems in their life. As someone who has been in mental health therapy for around four years, I can tell you that part of this assumption is correct. 

In my previous article, I talked about the difficulties I encountered when it came to navigating college life with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). I made a short comment that my diagnoses came from my therapist; I also mentioned that if you’re someone who believes they may be (or are) living with an anxiety disorder, taking a visit to the University of Kentucky’s Counseling Center may be helpful. However, I soon realized that counseling (and mental health therapy in general) is not something everyone is familiar with. 

With that in mind, I thought it would be helpful to write an article for those who are interested in mental health therapy, but are either hesitant or don’t know where to start. Even though it’s 2021, I feel as though there is still a stigma surrounding therapy and the people who seek it, and this shouldn’t be the case. People should be able to seek help if they need it and as someone who has done that firsthand, therapy has made a major improvement on my life. So, I want to discuss what therapy is about, what it can treat and so on. 

Without further ado, let’s get started.

According to the Mayo Clinic, psychotherapy (or talk therapy), is defined as “a general term for treating mental health problems by talking with a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health provider.” These psychological disorders could be anxiety disorders (such as OCD and PTSD), mood and personality disorders (such as depression and BPD), addictions, eating disorders (such as anorexia and bulimia) and more. With this in mind, though, it is important to note that psychotherapy isn’t just helpful for people with psychological disorders; it has also been shown to be beneficial for those without them.

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), psychotherapy can be useful for emotional difficulties such as grieving the loss of a loved one or the impact of other traumas. Basically, psychotherapy is useful for anyone experiencing difficulties in their day-to-day life; you don’t need a concrete reason to see a therapist. 

Now that we have discussed the types of disorders and difficulties psychotherapy can treat, what exactly does one do in psychotherapy? Well, it’s quite simple at face value; the patient tells their therapist how their psychological disorder or other difficulty in life affects them on a day-to-day basis, and the therapist, in turn, provides the patient with healthy coping mechanisms and tips on how to take control of their life. 

In order for this to work, however, both the patient and their therapist must work together in an effective manner. If not, sessions can run stagnant and potentially have an impact on the patient’s health. According to the APA, it is important to be “open and honest, and follow your agreed upon plan for treatment” in order to receive the best out of psychotherapy. 

If you find yourself struggling to open up to a therapist, though, you are not alone. Speaking to a stranger about the darkest parts of your past is daunting, and it took me a while to open up about my anxiety and troubles to my own therapist. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t pour your heart out the first few sessions; therapy is all about your comfort, and every person moves at a different pace. Therapists are trained to deal with all sorts of patients, so they should be understanding of this and take the necessary steps to ensure your comfort and wellbeing. 

On the other hand, if you feel as though sessions are not working and your therapist is not meeting your needs and standards, it is okay to look elsewhere. Finding the right therapist can take time, and you should not settle for less when it comes to your mental health. If you feel uncomfortable and distressed with your therapist in any way, stop sessions immediately. Continuing in an unsafe environment can be even more detrimental to your mental health and overall being. 

Therapy is beneficial for a better quality of life if you find yourself unable to process and handle the difficulties you have been living with. As I stated beforehand, you don’t need a psychological disorder to seek out treatment, nor do you need a concrete reason. If at any point you feel as though you need counseling or just need to speak with someone, be sure to reach out – whether this be at the University of Kentucky’s Counseling Center or elsewhere in Lexington. 

However, if you are a UK student who has been to the Counseling Center and feel as though you need further treatment, but are uncertain on where to get it, be sure to speak with one of the staff there. They are trained to provide students with outside resources and ensure they receive the care they need. 

I hope this article will help our readers. I am not a professional by any means (yet), but I do think therapy is extremely beneficial for one’s life. While we do have friends and family to lean on in the darkest moments of our life, sometimes the outside voice of a professional is needed in order to guide us. Don't be ashamed in asking for help. It took me a long time to do so, but thankfully, therapy has made a tremendous improvement on my life.