April is Mental Health Awareness Month. No matter what your relationship to your mental health is like or how many self-care practices you have in place, the role of a therapist adds an additional tool to your toolkit that might be otherwise missing. Particularly as we re-enter our new “new normal,” therapy is an excellent tool for personal growth and exploration, as well as to gain clarity on your thoughts and emotions. It’s a platform for building confidence in knowing who you are and what you want to make of your life, even if doesn’t feel necessary to you. Here are five reasons to give it a try.
- To uncover faulty ways of thinking
We spend so much time in our own heads that it’s easy to feed stories that skew our perceptions of reality or overdramatizing things that really aren’t true. Particularly as we have spent more time in isolation over the past year and a half than ever before, it’s easy to ruminate or repress thoughts in a maladaptive way.
Voicing our thoughts, emotions, and experiences with someone who has a non-judgemental, unbiased point of view helps us see reality more clearly and determine our cognitive distortions (or faulty ways of thinking). Therapists know the right questions to ask and the right ways to respond to what you share with empathy.
Everyone has triggers, insecurities, and personal histories that influence how we interact with and perceive the world. A therapist will help guide you on a path to thinking more logically. With time and practice, you’ll learn how to identify and combat these distortions in your everyday environment.
- To bring elements of your subconsciousness to consciousness
“I don’t even know what I would talk about,” you might be thinking.
The good news is, therapists hear this time and time again. They’re highly skilled at reading body language and social cues, and they know specific questions that serve as good starting points. As they get to know you better, a therapist will have a greater understanding of your personal tendencies, goals, and history. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve spent days trying to daydream up topics to talk about in therapy, only to get there and have a conversation jump-started that changes my life.
Conversations with therapists open your eyes to understanding parts of you that you didn’t know existed, and uncover layers of hidden shame. We can’t change what we don’t know, and we all have aspects of our identity that we tend to hide. Shame is one of the most painful emotions we experience. A therapist will help you step into and own your identity with confidence.
- There are numerous forms to try
The field of psychology continues to grow, and more and more creative approaches to traditional talk therapy are becoming easily accessible to the general public. Therapy is not “sit down and tell me your feelings.”
Most therapists have different specialities, whether in working with specific populations or in different modalities. Some examples include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR), transpersonal therapy, and biofeedback. Others include art, music, or movement therapy. Group therapy might be beneficial to some, as we can gain insight, relate with others, and see elements of ourselves reflect back to us.
Many therapists offer both virtual and in-person sessions. You can always try a few sessions with someone, and if it doesn’t feel like quite the right fit, see if another person’s approach works better for you.
- For accountability & personal growth
There is some spillover between the role of a life coach and that of a therapist. Both professionals can help you gain clarity on personal goals, potential roadblocks, and hold you accountable for action. Some life coaches are also trained therapists, and visa versa. If the idea of seeing a therapist sounds too intimidating or not quite right at this point in time, seeking out the advice of a coach might be a better fit.
Look for someone who has credentialed experience working in an area that you’re interested in growing. Some examples of specialities include career coaching, health coaching, relationship/sex coaching, and spiritual coaching. Humans aren’t meant to live in isolation. Having the insight of a therapist or life coach will skyrocket your personal growth.
- To heighten self-awareness & life skills
Our young adult years are a time for learning, growth, and exploration. Going to therapy will help you get a better understanding of your personal values, life mission, and what you want your individual purpose to be. If you’re struggling in finding a career path, developing romantic relationships, or solidifying parts of your identity, a therapist is someone who’ll walk the road with you. They don’t give you the answers – they help you find the ones that are already there.
Going to therapy will help you practice assertiveness, emotional expression, and self-compassion. You can work on body language, self-esteem, and effective communication skills. A therapist provides nonjudgemental feedback on your blind spots in ways that friends and family might not express.
It’s always a good time to reflect on your current self-care practices. Going to therapy is one of the best investments you can make not only for your mental health, but for overall personal growth.