FLTW: Why Everyone Should Try Therapy.

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This post was inspired by the novel The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger. Young lawyer Sophie unwillingly takes her first divorce case with an entertaining and volatile client in this novel told mainly through letters and legal missives. Join From Left to Write on March 18th as we discuss The Divorce PapersAs a member, I received a copy of this book for review purposes.

The Divorce Papers

So despite the fact that I’m a criminology major, I’m not particularly interested in law. Is that weird? Anyways, despite that, I still found this book to be a really good read. Towards the end of the novel when the divorce is being resolved, the daughter of the couple in this case undergoes a psychiatric evaluation. Her parents and grandfather are also included in interviews. During the interview with the father, he finishes the assessment by declaring the whole process a waste of time and a huge intrusion on his life.

So this got me thinking about therapy, and specifically, how there’s a lot of stigma surrounding it. When I was in high school and first started struggling with disordered eating, depression, and anxiety, I was dead-set against getting any sort of therapy or professional help. I had the attitude that I could deal with these things on my own.

Of course, I was, completely, 100% wrong. Things continued to get worse over the years, until I found myself battling anorexia. Even when I first admitted I had a problem, and was willing to talk to a dietitian about creating a meal plan, I still wouldn’t sit down and talk to anyone about the battles raging on in my head.

Psychiatric Help (img source)

It wasn’t until several months into recovery that I finally agreed to seek help for my disorder. I started seeing a psychotherapist on a weekly basis who specialized in eating disorders and women’s health, and started attending a recovery support group through Hope’s Garden. Once I was placed in these situations and was given a chance to sit back and talk about what I had been through and what was going on in my head, was I really able to work through my issues. In my personal therapy sessions I was able to weed through my history and my fears with losing my eating disorder, and learn strategies for recovery. In the group sessions, I was able to relate to and get support from people (women and men) who were going through or who had gone through similar events, and learn what worked best for them in recovery.

So basically, for me, therapy was the best thing I had ever done for myself. Without it I don’t think that recovery would have happened as it did for me. I learned about myself, determined my triggers, and learned how to live a life fully recovered from anorexia. But when I was attending therapy sessions, I felt awkward telling people that. I didn’t want to be looked at as weak, which seems to be a bit of a stigma or a stereotype with people that attend therapy.

But honestly? I don’t think you need to have a diagnosible mental issue or problem with other people (i.e. marital issues) to benefit from therapy. You don’t even have to understand or know why you’re feeling bad. A therapy session gives you the chance to sit down and discuss whatever’s going on in your life to an impartial listener, without judgement. They’re legally obligated to maintain confidentially (of course, with a few exceptions) so it’s easy to discuss things with them that you don’t feel comfortable discussing or working through with family or friends. Therapists and psychiatrists/psychologists are trained professionals and can offer insight and help you work through whatever’s happening in your life, or has happened in your past. Whether you’re working through marital or family issues, anxiety, a sad time in your life, grief, or just want someone to talk to about your hopes and fears for the future, therapy is a good place to go.

So no, you don’t have to have a ‘serious’ issue to get therapy. You aren’t ‘weak’ or ‘unable to fix your own problems’ if you choose to attend. In the end, isn’t taking action to deal with whatever you’re working through stronger than passively staying stuck? Therapy is a seriously great way to help you understand both yourself and external situations, and I think it’s something that everyone should consider at some point or another.

<— Have you ever had a therapy session?

<— Do you notice a stigma against people who go to therapy?

<— What are your thoughts on therapy in general? Worthwhile?

And P.S….Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Be safe today, k?

P.P.S. The new winner for the North Coast Naturals Giveaway is Jamie R, who has been emailed!

59 Comments

  1. I am a huge advocate for therapy. I’ve been seen more than one off and on for the past ten years when things get rough, and I know I’m where I am today thanks in large part to my time with them. In high school, I kept quiet about why I left early once a week for a few months, since I wasn’t sure how it would be received by others, but nowadays, I don’t care who knows. Anytime I find myself struggling with depression or eating these days for more than a few weeks, I know it’s time to head back, and I do so that I can get back to being me that much quicker
    Caitlin recently posted..Thinking Out Loud 13My Profile

    • that’s awesome lady – I’m glad you’ve been able to find therapists you click with and that you find them helpful. And that you know when you need to talk to them again!

  2. I’m a huge supporter of therapy as well. I’ve only been once and it was after a kid I was babysitting tried to kill me (not kidding…) while I was in high school. His mom was a therapist and sent me to one of her partners. And I guess Kyle and I had pre-marital counseling that our church required while we were preparing for our wedding, if that counts. Either way, both were beneficial since they create a sort of “safe zone” to talk about issues and problems. I think everyone should be required to see a therapist before, during and after major life events. It would most likely help prevent and/or diagnose earlier the staggering rates of mental illness we’re experiencing.
    Becky @ Olives n Wine recently posted..BBQ Chicken ChiliMy Profile

    • umm, I hope the kid was sent to therapy as well! That’s terrifying. And I hope that Eric and I do pre-marital counselling when we get to that stage in our lives – it sounds so beneficial!

  3. I am all for therapy. But I think especially with an Eating Disorder it’s so important to get someone who is specialized. I went to a therapist first who wasn’t and it really didn’t help that much, it irritated me even more. But then I found a new one who was specialized and that was when I started to make progress. I found out so much more about myself than only that I have an Eating Disorder.
    Lucie@FitSwissChick recently posted..Marvelous Shenanigans & Green PancakesMy Profile

    • That is definitely true – mine was an ED specialist who had had an eating disorder herself, so she was very easy to relate too!

  4. Totally agree with you here! I’m a huge believer in going to therapy, even if you don’t have any serious issues. Just like going to the dentist and doctor for regular check ups, I think it’s important to stay on top of our mental health. I wish I’d realized that sooner though. I went through 2 bouts of depression and an eating disorder before finally going to therapy several years later. I’m so glad I finally did!
    Chelsea @ Chelsea’s Healthy Kitchen recently posted..Nut butter alternatives for nut allergiesMy Profile

  5. I think there may have been BACK IN THE DAY?
    when I was younger
    but now? thankfully now…no stigma at least in the circles in which I hang.
    Carla recently posted..Food with BENEFITS (who’s down wit’ F.W.B.?).My Profile

  6. I think there’s definitely a stigma around therapy, but I wish there wasn’t. Talking to someone about things – anything that is on your mind really – is a great way to center yourself and get some insight. I think it’s important. I agree with you that you don’t even need to be having problems to see a therapist. Great post lady!
    Ang @ Nutty for Life recently posted..I Don’t Know About YouMy Profile

  7. I’ve been to several different therapist. I did find some of them helpful, but others just made me feel worse or there wasn’t a connection or knowledge on their part about eating disorders/depression/anxiety. I would go back to therapy in a heartbeat if I had proper insurance. The key is finding one that “clicks” with you and is knowledgeable about what the client is suffering with. I do think there is still a stigma, unfortunately.

  8. Very well said, lady! I definitely think there’s a negative stigma surrounding therapy, which is a shame seeing as it can be so beneficial, and at times even crucial. On the plus side, I do think the aura surrounding therapy is becoming a little less negative… It seems that more and more people are now willing to admit that therapy can be a godsend when things get rough.

    All that being said, I think that choosing a therapist is probably one of the most important parts of the whole process. If you don’t have someone that you feel understands you, you probably won’t get much out of it.
    Amanda @ .running with spoons. recently posted... chunky monkey snack bites .My Profile

    • definitely agree that finding the right therapist is extremely important – I probably just got really lucky that I clicked with the first one I went to!

  9. I’m so glad you wrote this post! It was very timely and exactly what I needed to read today! I adored this book too – it’s interesting how we can all get so many different inspirations from it!
    Laura @ the gluten- free treadmill recently posted..40 Days of Green Smoothie Review & Giveaway!My Profile

  10. I worried that by going to therapy, I was labeling myself as “troubled” and would therefore actually hinder my ability to change. After a few sessions, I realized it was the best decision I could have made. Sure, maybe I could have changed my relationship with food on my own, but now that I know I have someone I can talk to openly, it has the made the whole process so much less scary. And I am learning all kinds of things about myself I would have never realized without someone pointing it out. Great post, if that stigma wasn’t there, so many more people would probably go.
    Lindsay recently posted..Stuffed Sweet PotatoMy Profile

    • I’m so happy to hear that it’s going well for you! I can imagine how much easier life would be for people if more were willing to go.

  11. You are so right, side note I will have to check out this book too. therapy has a lot of stigma around it, but i know the four years i was in therapy was a saving grace for me. obviously it is what ultimately saved me but I am still such an advocate for it. I have been trying to find someone in DC not because I am struggling but because I think it is a great learning and growing tool for me.

  12. Very interesting read! It the job that I do, I’ve come to learn the importance of therapy, so I’m a huge advocate of it. I am not a therapist myself, but we refer people out all the time. They always have such positive experiences and it definitely helps them work through the trauma.
    Holly @ EatGreatBEGreat recently posted..Fit for Spring Wish ListMy Profile

  13. For a time I actually ‘secretly’ wanted to go for therapy.. yet I didn’t want to admit it. Not to myself, nor to my family. I always thought it weird, but I find comfort in talking deep matters with people I don’t ‘know’.. if they can relate to me on a level. I will gladly go ahead and pour my heart out if I know that they’ve been there, or understand what I’m talking about.
    With family, the closeness somehow makes it difficult to share what you really feel because there’s the possibility of hurting them..
    Ms.J recently posted..Getting past the danger zoneMy Profile

  14. Mmm, so I started going to therapy when I moved to New Haven. I couldn’t sleep and was very, very low. It was my last resort, as I’d always kind of WANTED to go to therapy (struggled with depression for years) but not wanted to tell my parents. My therapist was…okay. BUT the best thing that she could have done for me was suggest that I start exercising. Doing that TRULY changed my life, and I don’t think I would have taken the plunge without the suggestion. Plus it allowed me to see some things about myself that I otherwise wouldn’t have.

    I guess my suggestion is that you might not click with the first person you see, but if therapy is something that you want to pursue, try someone else until you do get the right fit!
    Amy @ Long Drive Journey recently posted..Birthday Recap and What’s Coming UpMy Profile

    • that’s an excellent suggestion – you definitely need to click with someone in order to really gain from the experience. I was lucky that I clicked with mine so well!

  15. I’ve never been to a therapy session, but I could totally see how it would help lift (or at least lighten) a heavy burden.
    Tiff @ Love Sweat & Beers recently posted..Shamrock Race RecapMy Profile

  16. I was completely against therapy for the first 3 years of recovery. My nutritionist acted as a therapist and that was enough for me. I did end up going last year and didn’t find it particularly helpful because I couldn’t relate to my therapist and always defaulted to my RD (I still do). I think it can make all the difference when you find that person you connect to and I’m glad it worked for you!
    Sarah recently posted..CelebrationsMy Profile

    • definitely agree that that connection is necessary! If you got everything out of your nutritionist that you can get out of a therapist and you trust her (and she’s helpful) then it sounds pretty perfect!

  17. I love this for two reasons: I can add a new book to my reading list, and removing the stigma around therapy is super important to me. I think it can sometimes be challenging to find the right fit with a therapist, but I think having an impartial third party is so so important!

    Unrelated: I’m also a NCN blogger. Hi!!
    Ange @ Cowgirl Runs recently posted..Weekly Plan: 3/17 – 3/23 (Ultra Marathon Training Week 8)My Profile

  18. Therapy has helped me through so much. It has gotten me through my eating disorders, an assault, and depression. Even though I didn’t full trust them, it felt good to talk to someone instead of holding it all in. It did open my eyes and to know I had that support.
    Natalie @ lovenataliemarie recently posted..MIMM – Start to Spring BreakMy Profile

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  20. I think it sometimes takes a few tries to find a form of therapy that works for you, but nearly everyone can benefit from talking out and working through their negative thoughts in a constructive environment. After years of anxiety and teenage depression, it wasn’t until I was desperate to get out of my ED that I finally gave in and sought help. Then, it wasn’t until several months later that I really found someone who made me listen to reason; a councilor at my university office rather than a technical “therapist”. She was snappy and realistic and managed to take my warped thoughts and re-articulate them so that I could actually see how foolish I was being. “I get insulted when people offer me unhealthy food,” got reflected back to me as, “You don’t like looking like somebody who eats.” It was tough stuff and *exactly* what I needed to hear.

    It’s hard to get out of the mindset that asking for help = weakness, especially since books and TV shows tend to insinuate that strong characters only ever take care of themselves and scorn anyone trying to “analyze” them. But it really is helpful to get a look at the mess going on in one’s head from an objective – and experienced – outside point of view! Thanks x1000 for writing this post. I hope that if there are some readers who are nervous about asking for help this inspires them.
    Sarah @ The Bookshelf Pirate recently posted..St Patrick’s Day Recipe (Gluten Free Irish Soda Bread) and ReadingMy Profile

    • that’s true – it doesn’t necessarily have to be an ‘official’ therapist to be able to gain from talking to someone – it sounds like the counselor was exactly what you needed to heal.

  21. This was so refreshing to read. I feel like there is definitely a stigma around therapy were there certainly doesn’t need to be.
    Gina @ Health, Love, and Chocolate recently posted..Weekend Snapshots {3/17/14}My Profile

    • it definitely needs to be done away with – there’s so many people out there how would benefit so much from therapy!

  22. I support therapy. Unfortunately, there is a stigma around it and there shouldn’t be. I think having a third, unbiased person to talk to about whatever situation you are going through is beneficial in some way. No one should be looked down upon for trying to improve or fix something about themselves.

    • that’s true – looking to improve ourselves is usually celebrated, so it’s frustrating that people fear being looked down upon for trying to better their mental health.

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  24. I’ve never sought therapy, but there definitely times where I knew I needed it. Thanks for sharing your story.
    Thien-Kim recently posted..7 Books About Inspiring Women Rulers From HistoryMy Profile

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  26. I am really glad I read this post today. I think it’s easy to be scared of getting help, especially for those who thrive off control or feel like controlling their food and exercise is the only thing obtainable in their life. It’s honorable and inspiring that you are so open about your own experience and your healing process. I never thought of support groups, brilliant idea for those who are on a tight budget or scared to face their fears alone.

    <3
    Ashley @MilesonOats recently posted..MIMM-Crocs ComebackMy Profile

    • Thanks Ashley! And group therapy is definitely a great way to go – most support groups that I’ve seen are free or very cheap to attend.

  27. Family therapy, group therapy, one-on-one therapy; you name it I’ve done it! I hates it at the time, but now I can see how it helped me recover. Now, yoga is my therapy
    Suzanne @ hello, veggy! recently posted..Virtual Tea Time [13]My Profile

  28. Really great post, Sam!
    Liz @ Carpe Diem and Run recently posted..Monday Miles #9My Profile

  29. Great post, and an important message!

    Yes, I’ve been in therapy, and I’ve engaged in therapy with a variety of family members, at different times in my life. There is a huge value in having an nonjudgmental ear to hear us, and an unattached, objective perspective to reflect our experience back to us. And, as you’ve pointed out, group sessions can be enormously helpful in allowing us to get insights that we might never arrive at on our own.

    The fact that you have gotten so many comments is, I hope, a tribute to the importance of your post, and I hope that it results in at least a few folks feeling that it’s OK to get help. No question the stigma of mental health and the difficulty in seeking help, for all the reasons you list, is a major barrier to people.
    Janaki recently posted..Divorce, in hindsightMy Profile

    • thank you Janaki! That objective perspective was so vital for me in determining where my behaviours were coming from and how to fix them. Therapy is such a great resource, and I hope more people reach out when it’s needed!

  30. My university offers free therapy under the CAPS title (counseling and psychological services), so I’ve tried it out a few times. While I haven’t gotten much out of it (didn’t love my therapist), I’m a HUGE proponent of therapy. I think everyone could benefit from spending a few sessions talking to an impartial third party!
    Carly @ Snack Therapy recently posted..Food LatelyMy Profile

    • Finding a therapy you click with is definitely huge – I got lucky with mine! But definitely good for everyone to at least try!

  31. I couldn’t agree more! Throughout my life, I’ve had a few therapists here and there, but I never really had one that I connected with until now (the doc I’m seeing about my insomnia…which is hardly the focus of our appointments anymore…ha!). It makes ALL the difference. Like you said, just having someone on the outside to give an opinion…or another perspective…or to help you sort out your thoughts/feelings/whatever…it’s amazing what it can do to help you feel lighter on the inside, ya know?
    Heather @ Kiss My Broccoli recently posted..A Weekend Beyond WORLDS!My Profile

    • I’m so happy that you found that third party that you were able to connect with! It’s crazy how much of a difference it makes.

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