So here I am, sobbing in the car as I drive home from volunteering with Alpha Grand Rapids. I am tired, I am overwhelmed, I am feeling hopeless and I am sobbing while listening to Rachel Hollis’ “Girl Wash Your Face”. Listen, nothing that Ms. Hollis talked about was anything new to me as I have had class over class of therapeutic techniques and self-care, I go to church, and half of my friends are therapist and the other half that are not, are really great listeners. Nothing that I was hearing was new to me, so why was I crying so uncontrollably?
I was crying because despite being fully equipped with friends, faith and my education, I knew that I needed to change something about my life, or I would not last on this earth much longer. Yup, I said it. With my chronic pain, chronic fatigue caused by narcolepsy and a few other bad habits, I was feeling more and more like I was being chained to the earth. Sure, I was able to volunteer on a weekly basis and I made dinner and took my kids to and from activities, I felt like most days, I was on auto pilot.
So here are a few tips I have for you, which I have formulated as a mental health professional, mother, reader and well, a human being.
What does this even mean? Well, I can officially say that I have been on the giving and receiving end of psychotherapy and I want to give a few pointers from both ends on how to make the most out of your therapy experience.
First and Foremost, please give therapy a try if you feel like you are struggling with any form of mental health even if you cannot put your finger on it, give it a shot. You will be surprised with how much you learn about yourself. I feel like the mental health field is growing in truth, which is making mental health professions more of a legitimate field.
1. Let's be honest here, mental health is a real thing. The brain is a powerful organ in the body that holds A LOT of power over the body and let's also be real about the truth that we are not even sure how to unleash all its power. Doesn't it make sense to reach out for help to attempt to make sense of how this organ works.
2. When you are searching for a mental health professional, let me give you a few pointers. If you are looking for a therapist that is under your insurance, you are going to have to do some research. Not all therapist take insurance or take your insurance. Why is this, therapist have to apply to be on an insurance panel. We do not automatically get to charge any insurance that we want. We are very sorry for this because we believe that mental health services should be available to everyone.
3. You deserve to be comfortable with your therapist. I am not saying that there are not going to be times when you are going to possibly be upset with your therapist or feel the need to question them, but overall, you need to be safe and secure with your therapist. If you are not, you have the right to switch to someone else.
4. This goes along with number 3, advocate for your health. If this means that you need to coordinate care with a therapist, primary care doctor, Psychiatrist then BY ALL MEANS, do so. We have contracts that you can sign so we can talk to any person that you want us to, which makes coordination for care easier.
5. There are going to be days that you are not going to feel like talking to your therapist. This is normal. Sometimes things, life, stuff or whatever you want to call it becomes overwhelming and you just DO NOT want to talk. That's okay. We, as therapist, need to respect that sometimes words are not needed and are difficult to come by. We can sit together and work on other things that do not require talking.
6. Please know that we do not (well I DO NOT) feel like I am above you in any way. I respect the fact that you have chosen to sit with me, in my chosen space, and share your life with me. I respect this choice that you have made. I cannot speak for all mental health professionals, so if you do not get this vibe from your mental health professional, you have the choice to choose someone else.
7. I considered myself a Psychotherapist "therapist", which I believe is more than a counselor. Below you will read the information from my current practice and supervisor on the difference between the two titles and positions. We are here to lead you to a better life where you are able to make the best choices possible for you. We don't just sit and give advice, but help you answer your own questions. We are a helping hand on your life's journey.
8. Last, but certainly not least, please do not expect us to fix you. I have depression, I do not expect to be fixed by anyone else. I take medication on a daily basis, a choice that I know is what is right for me. There are days where my depression symptoms can take over and I have bad days, but I am much better than I have ever been without medication and therapy. We are here to help, but we do not have magic wands. Things can and likely will get worse before they get better. Therapy is a brave choice that opens up wounds and brings light to the truth.
Definitions from Webster's Dictionary
the treatment of mental disorder by psychological rather than medical means.
a person who gives advice or counseling
From Community Recovery Counseling Center: Kristina Wessels, MA LPC
Counseling or Psychotherapy: What is the difference?
You have taken your first steps by inquiring about the difference between "counseling" and "therapy." Counseling is more about interpersonal relationships and how to improve them such as marriages, families, siblings, friendships and premarital relationships. Marriage and Family Therapy looks at the family as a system that for some reason is not working to its fullest potential. Those with an LMFT--a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist--have gone through training to understand how family systems work and how these systems can become dysfunctional.
Psychotherapy is intrapersonal which means you are looking into yourself and understanding what is working for you and what is working against you. Sometimes certain behaviors are used as a way to survive. As circumstances change, these behaviors may not be needed anymore, yet, are still being accessed so they are working against you rather than for you. The easy part is knowing that something is broken or not quite working right in your life. The hardest part is knowing what needs to change and whether or not you are ready for that change.
Psychotherapy is the journey you and your therapist will take so that your fullest potential has the ability to be revealed. The best part is that you are on this journey with a fellow sojourner.