The world is gradually shifting towards greater acceptance of mental health needs, but there is sometimes still a deep hesitance towards therapy, which is seen as best reserved for people with the most crippling problems, serious mental health disorders, or extreme traumas.
Humans have great capacity for struggle, and so it is that we carry on, comforted by the thought that our problems aren’t that big, and silenced by the belief that we should be able to deal with them on our own. Not surprisingly, individuals often seek support only after life has begun to feel unmanageable and overwhelming.
If you have reached this point, reaching out for support is a necessity. To reach out before this point is a great act of proactive self-care. Either way, taking that first step takes a whole lot of courage.
If you have ever wondered about therapy, but convinced yourself that your problems aren’t big enough, here are some reasons therapy might actually be perfect for you!
- We all experience stress: Big or small, stressors are real, and can have serious effects on your mental and physical health. Many people are not aware of their own past and present stressors. Others are acutely aware and are highly distressed. Whether your stress is related to childhood experiences, anxiety, work, relationships, or parenting, having someone you can talk with can help you to recognize, identify, process, and address stressors in your life.
- Emotional awareness: This refers to the ability to identify the emotions you are experiencing. Emotional awareness is important because you need to know what you are feeling in order to monitor, process and respond to those feelings in a healthy way. There are different levels of emotional awareness, with people at the highly developed end having better mental health outcomes. Engaging in therapy is a great way to develop your own emotional awareness, as well as awareness of emotions in others, so that you are better able to tolerate difficult situations when they do arise.
- New coping skills: We all find ways to cope in times of stress. You might reach for comfort foods, go for walks, take long showers, vent to a friend, cry it out, distract yourself, use humour, pray, or use self reminders to get through tough times. Some coping behaviours can be “maladaptive”, meaning that they seem to help in the short term, but actually cause more harm and distress over time. When you lack strong, healthy coping skills, you are more likely to resort to unhealthy and maladaptive ways of coping when you are faced with negative events or changes in your life. Engaging in therapy is a great way to add some tools to your toolkit, so that you have a wider range of powerful, flexible, and healthy coping tools to reach for in times of stress.
- Self-care and self-compassion: As a society, we have accepted that maintaining our physical health and avoiding physiological illnesses requires constant work. We have yet to embrace working on mental health with the same level of acceptance and necessity. Self-care includes finding ways to take care of your physical, emotional, social, mental, and spiritual needs. People who practice regular self-care have better mental health. Therapy can help to reframe the way you think about yourself, and the way you practice self-care, so that you are more resourced in times of stress.
- An outside perspective: Sometimes it can be therapeutic to talk to an impartial third party, who can help you to think about things from a different perspective, to normalize life events and emotional reactions, to create some distance between you and your problems, to explore alternative solutions, and to find meaning in difficult life circumstances.
Getting started with therapy
In Ontario, psychologists, psychotherapists, and clinical social workers in private practices do not require a doctor’s referral. You can simply phone the clinic to book a session yourself. However, some insurance companies require a referral, so always check with your insurance provider first, to find out if they require a doctor’s referral for reimbursement.