Therapy has slowly become less of a taboo subject to bring up, but there are still a lot of misconceptions about the practice. People think it must be a therapist talking to you from afar while you lie down on a couch. Questions such as “How does that make you feel?” and “What brings you here?” are the running joke, showing that essentially anyone could be a therapist for you, so why pay for one? Additionally, people think that the world of psychological help is being capitalized since there are “professionals” that exist who treat you more like a transaction versus a human. With these types of preconceived notions, it’s not a surprise that people would be weary of the idea of therapy.
But therapy doesn’t have to be that way for you.
The experience you go through can be vastly different, depending on what you’re looking for and what you’re open to receiving. I have a strong belief in the universe providing what you are asking for at the right time, and if you haven’t found the “right” therapist, or it just isn’t working out for you at the moment, that’s completely fine. If you really believe therapy can help you out but you’re out of luck when it comes to finding someone who you vibe with, know that you will find that person when the time comes. And learning to accept that is powerful in itself.
I first considered therapy the fall semester of my senior year of college. I was going through a stressful time thinking of what I wanted to do post grad. There were a lot of expectations on me to get into a high paying field due to the fact that I went to a prestigious university. It was imbedded in my mind that I couldn’t just have this opportunity I was given go to waste. I wasn’t happy with myself and thought that therapy would help me better understand my mom and communicate my concerns with her in a civil manner.
I decided to try therapy again two years later and did as much research as I could to be better informed. At the time, I was working with a small non profit that offered me the most basic health insurance plan at Kaiser. After doing the calculations, I became stressed with the amount of money it cost to get help. I got mad at myself for not taking advantage of therapy in college when I had the mandatory health insurance. 5 sessions for free and $15/session after? Compared to the $200 sessions I had at Kaiser, AFTER my copay? Honestly, I was one of those people who were weary of therapy. My experiences didn’t make me want to go back. It made me not want to consider it and just figure it all out of my own.
But that’s the thing about human nature. We are all made to interact, connect, and learn from one another, but our society has built up so many barriers that make people less inclined to hear others out, to give them a chance. It makes people think we all have to be independent and that if you aren’t independent, you are weak. It’s built to make people who express their emotions or be vulnerable to believe that they should never do it, that pain should always be avoided. But it’s through our painful experiences that we grow the most. And not being independent immediately as well as being emotional/vulnerable is NOT a weakness at all.
With all my research done, I ended up going with online therapy. Considering the difficulty I had with getting up from bed, even to go to work, I knew that I was emotionally and physically drained… and that driving to any therapist’s office would take up time I didn’t want being taken from me. Online therapy was a blessing for my type of lifestyle, especially since I traveled. Although I like routines and schedules, I also enjoy the flexibility of changing things last minute if something comes up or if I’m just not feeling it. You’re allowed to feel this way, and in this day and age with technology being so prominent in our lives, online therapy provides such a great form of support people with specific lifestyles.
Coming Soon: My Experience with Online Therapy
The online platform I went with was called Betterhelp. Before I continue, I do want to preface that I am aware of the Betterhelp controversy and am saddened that this controversy has made people reluctant to check out the platform. I enjoyed it a lot, and it worked so well with me once I found a therapist that I vibed well with. It took 2 tries, but I’m so thankful to have someone who understands my story and comes from a judgement free space. Please note that I didn’t leave online therapy because I thought it wasn’t “good” therapy. I left Betterhelp for reasons I explain below in my 8 lessons learned from 10 months in therapy.
- You don’t need to hit rock bottom to go to therapy.
I hit rock bottom all 3 times I considered therapy. I even hit rock bottom other times and NEVER considered therapy. You can be an emotionally healthy person and still go to therapy to talk about things you can improve on that you never really knew about. There’s always an assumption that you have to be “broken” or “hurting” but honestly, therapy exists to help you improve your life. If there is something hindering you, therapists or other psychology professionals can help you discover actions to take or reasonings behind why you are the way you are. It takes research to know which mental health professional you should go see. Here is a resource that may be helpful in finding the right professional for you.
- There shouldn’t be shame in admitting you need (or want) help.
Asking for help doesn’t make you weak. Emotional intelligence tells us that asking for help and being vulnerable shows a lot of strength on your part, because letting down your walls means you have to learn how to relinquish control and become dependent for a short amount of time. But in doing so, you’re expressing your emotions in a healthy manner, rather than keeping it all in and doing the hard work of healing all on your own. Your loved ones, friends, and communities are here for you. You just have to let them in. They want the best for you, and once you are willing to accept that you deserve the best, you will know that asking for help is one of the first steps to getting what you deserve.
- Friends are the original (OG) therapists, but it is good to have an unbiased person hearing the situation at hand out.
Like I said in the point above, reach out to your loved ones. They know you, they love you, and the unconditionally support you. However, understand that a therapist, especially a good one, will be able to do all of the things a friend can, but they will have one advantage. That advantage is the unbiased nature of a therapist in not knowing your situation or knowing who you are exactly. They can give an objective lens to what you’re going through and help you navigate that space. It’s valuable once you are open to the idea that a stranger is offering a different perspective on your life that you never had before.
- Healing is not a linear process.
Please do not go into therapy, like I did, thinking that your healing would increase like an exponential line graph. The process has its ups and downs. I remember feeling so terrible, crying every session for the first few months. Eventually, I stopped crying and had collected myself more. I was riding the high because I started to feel unstoppable. And then, I hit an obstacle and went spiraling back down. At first, I blamed therapy for not being a good solution for me. But in actuality, it was still good for me, and I just needed to shift my perspective and expectations of what therapy would provide me. Because I can tell you now: I am still in the process of healing post therapy, and I know what I need to do to continue this process without my therapist.
- Find someone you vibe with & don’t settle.
What do you want in a therapist? What kind of background are you looking for? There is bound to be someone, somewhere, that has what you are looking for. It’s just the way the universe works. I knew I wanted a female therapist, who identified as a WoC. Although Filipinx would have been preferred, it didn’t matter in the end because she understood the family expectations I had, as well as general issues that come up in heteronormative relationships. I also didn’t want someone who was super religious, because religion was an issue that came up with my work life. All in all, I found my therapist, and we chatted for a bit before I decided to work together with her.
- Money may be an issue, and you have to know what works for you. I.e. College Health Insurance, Kaiser plans, etc. Ask around.
To be transparent, money is one of the reasons why I decided to take a break from therapy. I’m currently unemployed and making significantly less money. I was going through a lot in the beginning of 2019 and realized I was not utilizing therapy the most I could. I started not going to live sessions and not giving updates weekly. I wasn’t getting the most “bang for my buck” as some people say. Since I can’t go back in time and go to the more “affordable” therapy in college, I knew that my time with therapy had to come to an end for the meantime. I got the tools needed to make my life better, easier to handle, and enjoyable. That’s all I really wanted from therapy. To understand myself more and to be my happy self once again.
Definitely ask around to see if other people are willing to disclose if they go to therapy and how much they are paying. There are more people than you may realize! Plus, the different places and therapists you can find are endless. It takes work, but again, if it will help you, it’s worth considering.
- Therapy is a tool. You are the person that needs to take responsibility for the change that will occur in your life.
This is one of the biggest lessons I learned from being in therapy. You should not expect the therapist to “fix” your life. You are the one responsible for taking action and bringing forth the change you want. Therapy is a tool for your personal development. Within therapy, you are taught methods and skills that help you better understand yourself, the way you work and respond to others, as well as how you can best handle conflict and obstacles that come your way. If you see therapy as a solution that does all the work for you, then you need to reconsider going to therapy and spending the money and time for it. You have to understand that therapy is an additional thing in your life. It does not define your life, nor will it dictate what happens to you.
- Be open to hear things you don’t want to hear and discover things you never knew.
This is pretty self explanatory — be open, be receptive, and be a student forever. You always could learn something new, perfect a craft, or even improve on skills that you currently have. You can unlearn bad habits and formulate new ones to replace them. A good therapist will hear you out, but a good student/client will be willing to hear what they have to say as well.
I’m going to end this by leaving some resources for POC therapists in the Bay Area.
You’ll have to do the work to figure out which one will be good for you, but I can assure you that the process will be well worth it if you’re invested in your healing and feel a calling toward therapy as a tool to help you.
Let me know if you have considered therapy, have been in it, or are still in it! I’m also curious about general thoughts people have on therapy. I’d love to chat! Til the next post.