Mental Health 101
1 July 2020
Mental health therapy – also known as psychotherapy, talk therapy, or counselling, can be beneficial when you struggle with emotional difficulties, life challenges, and mental health concerns. Counter the stigma: therapy isn’t for “crazy” people, it can be as routine as a check-up for your mental health, more than a few weeks long for higher effectiveness, or structured and regular for longer-term treatment. Psychotherapy may be done alongside psychiatric medication as well as physical health treatments too.
Therapy can help improve symptoms of many mental health conditions. In therapy, you learn to cope with symptoms that may not respond to treatment right away. Medication can reduce some symptoms of mental health conditions, but therapy teaches you skills to address symptoms on your own. These last after therapy ends, and symptoms may continue to improve, making it less likely that you will need further treatment.
Therapy is usually recommended when your mental health or emotional concerns start to affect your daily life and functioning, particularly when:
- Thinking about or coping with the issue takes up at least an hour each day
- The issue causes embarrassment or makes you want to avoid others
- The issue has caused your quality of life to decrease
- The issue has negatively affected school, work, or relationships
- You’ve had to make changes in your life or developed habits to cope with the issue
If you experience any of the following emotions or feelings to the extent that they interfere with life, therapy may help you reduce their effects. It’s especially important to consider getting help if you feel controlled by symptoms or if they could cause harm to yourself or others.
- Overwhelmed. You might feel like you have too many things to do or too many issues to cope with. You might feel like you can’t rest or even breathe.
- Fatigue. This physical symptom often results from or accompanies mental health issues. It can cause you to sleep more than usual or have trouble getting out of bed in the morning.
- Disproportionate rage, anger, or resentment. Everyone feels angry at times. However, seeking support to deal with these feelings may be a good idea when they don’t pass, are extreme compared to the situation, or if they lead you to take potentially harmful actions.
- Anxious or intrusive thoughts. It’s normal to worry about things from time to time, but when worry takes up a significant part of your day or causes physical symptoms, therapy can help you deal with it.
- Apathy. Losing interest in usual activities, the world around you, or life in general can indicate mental health issues like depression or anxiety.
- Hopelessness. Losing hope or motivation, or feeling as if you have no future, can indicate depression or another mental health condition. Feeling hopeless from time to time, especially after a period of difficulty, isn’t uncommon. But when it persists, it may lead to thoughts of suicide.
- Social withdrawal. Many people feel better when they’re able to spend at least some time alone. Introverted people may need even more time alone than others. But if you feel distressed around others or fear being with other people, therapy can help you understand and deal with these feelings.
While therapy can help us work through issues that may lead to thoughts of suicide, it is usually not the best option if the threat of suicide is imminent — being in crisis. If you are in crisis, you can get help right away by reaching out to a suicide helpline. A therapist can help support you going forward, once you are no longer in crisis.
Why Consider Therapy?
- Therapy can help us learn about what we are feeling, why we might be feeling it, and how to cope.
- Therapy offers a safe place to talk through challenging situations.
- You’ll learn more about yourself. Therapists listen to your story and help you make connections. They may guide you or make recommendations if you feel lost, but they don’t tell you what to do. They empower you to take action on your own.
- Therapy can help you achieve your goals. If you aren’t sure what they are, they can help you clarify them and set realistic steps to meet them.
- Therapy can help with relationships. Whether you’re single or in a relationship, therapy can help you address difficulties with relating to others such as insecurities or difficulties with trust.
What If Therapy Isn’t For Me?
- Sometimes, therapy doesn’t help right away. It can take a long time for symptoms to improve. Going to therapy and seeing no change may cause frustration, or seem like a waste of time and money.
- Other factors can impact how effective therapy is, there is no single, correct approach that works for all. Not every therapist works for everyone either. You may have had a bad experience with a therapist or a certain type of treatment, making it hard for you to try therapy again, even if you want support.
- It can help to look for a therapist who treats what you’re experiencing. If you don’t have a diagnosis, you can talk to potential therapists about your symptoms. An ethical therapist will let you know if they’re able to treat your concern. If they can’t, they may be able to recommend someone who can.
- Keep in mind different approaches may be better for different issues. Being misdiagnosed can affect how treatment works. If you didn’t feel heard in therapy before, or if you experience different symptoms, a different therapist might be a better fit for you.
- If you’re considering therapy, you may be thinking about the possible drawbacks. Cost might be a concern for you. You might also be aware that therapy is often difficult. Trauma or other painful events from the past can be frightening to remember, much less discuss with someone else. Even if you aren’t dealing with trauma, working through challenges isn’t easy, and therapy isn’t a quick fix. Therapy also requires honesty, with yourself and with the therapist you work with.
But if you’re willing to do the work, therapy can be rewarding. It’s a safe, judgment-free space where you can share anything, with a trained professional who is there to help.