The Truth About Therapy: Part 1

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One of the most important aspects of maintaining a healthy mental and emotional life is self-expression. The first form of expression that most of us reach for is verbal – talking. You might talk to your best friend, a sibling or a significant other, just to share the ups and downs of the day. Whether you realize it or not, talking is an essential tool in mental and emotional healing. Therapy is a great way to make sure that all of the talking that you do counts.

Benefits of Talking

Studies show that talking helps to reduce anxious or depressive feelings by putting a name to emotions. Yep, that’s it. Just putting a name to how you feel, telling another person that you feel exhausted, worried, agitated, embarrassed, or whatever can provide real relief. Better yet, the more you talk about your feelings, the easier it gets!

This may not sound like rocket science. “Duh,” you might say “Of course talking makes you feel better!” But this finding points to the fact that not all talking is beneficial or healing. If it was, we would all be walking around in a state of blissful serenity. I don’t know about you, but I have not yet reached a state of Zen.

In the meanwhile, I’ll focus on engaging in the kind of talking that can really be restorative.

Talk to SOMEONE. 

I’m going to illustrate to you why I believe that seeing a therapist can be a real game changer, but if you’re still not comfortable with the idea of going to therapy just please talk to someone about your feelings.  Not just anyone, but a very particular someone who meets these two requirements:

  1. Someone you can trust completely. You feel comfortable talking to this person and revealing emotions to them that you might not usually share.

  2. This person will put your mental and emotional health FIRST. First as in before friendship politics, personal history or bias. This doesn’t mean that you can’t know the person very well. It just means that this is the kind of person who is actively listening to you and is not filling the blanks with biased information while you are talking.

It’s hard to find people who really meet both of these requirements. I love talking to my family and friends. They all meet the first requirement, but the second?  For the second requirement I really believe that it’s beneficial to go to someone whose job it is to listen while you talk. That can be a pastor a mentor or a therapist, but they must meet those two requirements.

Why Therapy?

The second requirement is the reason that I highly recommend that everyone and anyone, whether or not you identify as mentally ill or having issues with mental health, to consider seeing a therapist.

Seeking out mental health services does not mean that there’s anything wrong with you. It simply means that you care about all aspects of your health and wellness. In the same way that you would go to a dentist for a toothache, you should not be ashamed or embarrassed to seek out a mental health professional in order to get keep your mind in optimal shape.

The first time that I saw a mental health professional was during college when a radical change in scenery and feelings of isolation left me extremely anxious and depressed. I think I’ve always been an anxious person, but unfortunately, it took feeling as if I were being pushed to the edge for me to find help.

I have to say, talking to someone about what I felt and why, and knowing that this person didn’t know anyone that I knew and that nothing that we discussed would leave the room was such an unbelievable relief. In my family, if you tell one person something, there will probably be a random aunt across an ocean somewhere repeating the gossip, so this really seemed like a huge bonus to me. Not only are mental health professionals trained to listen, but their also trained to give advice that has real proven scientific backing.

At this point you might be saying, “Okay Spoken Black Girl, a therapist can listen objectively and discretely, but you’re telling me to talk about my feelings with a complete stranger! What about trust?”

That’s a fair point. Trust has to be earned. But fortunately there are zillions of mental health professionals out there with various qualifications and specialties. I bet out of the zillions, you can find at least one person who you gel with.

In future posts, I plan to cover the various types of mental health professionals that are available, but just take my word on it for now that it possible to find someone who you can learn to trust. I’ve seen three therapists in my lifetime (one in college, one during study abroad and another post-college) and I absolutely loved all of them. Like to the point where we would exchange birthday gifts.  Yeah, we were cool like that! So it’s definitely possible to find someone who can be the active listener that you need to help you talk through your thoughts and feelings and become a trusted ally at the same time.

In Part 2, look for:

How to find the right therapist – degrees and qualifications, specializations, and finding a therapist who you can relate to and challenges faced by WoC seeking therapy.

Do you have reservations or concerns about seeing a mental health professional? Did you have a really great experience with a therapist that you’d like to share? I’d love to pick your brain, so comment below!