Starting Successful Therapy

I’ve been seeing my current therapist since September of last year. It’s the best experience I’ve had with therapy, so I plan on continuing to see them for a long time. But I want to talk about why this particular experience has been so successful.

from them.
Read their article on queer therapists here.

When you see a therapist, you have to be willing to address your issues. That’s what you’re going for, right? To find and work on the things having a negative impact on your life? A surprising number of people I’ve talked to about therapy go because someone told them they need to, and have an attitude about it. It’s clear the don’t want to be there and don’t think it’s beneficial. As much as I think therapy is super helpful and a good space for me, it’s totally valid that therapy does not work for everyone. And that’s the first rule of successful therapy: willingness to be there and work for it. Seriously, if you’re making the choice for yourself and don’t want to go to therapy, don’t. You won’t get anything out of it and it probably will upset you.

That’s likely a huge reason therapy hasn’t worked for me in the past. I went, but I really didn’t think I needed it. So when I talked to my previous therapists it was about generic issues I felt were safe but common enough for them to take me seriously. There was also an element of distrust with these therapists, too, as they were through my university. Second rule of successful therapy: trust. A palpable difference exists between the licensed therapist that I now see and the students/religiously affiliated therapists I bounced between in my adolescent and early college years. The biggest reasons for the distrust came from my uneasiness with religion and my parents forcing me to sign a disclosure agreement. That’s a completely different issue, but let me say this: your therapist will not tell anyone what you talk about unless you sign one of those. If you have questions on the privacy of what you talk about, ask! Any good therapist will tell you when and why they would disclose what you talk about. It took me a couple weeks to start opening up to my therapist about what was triggering my anxiety, and I only recently opened up about my biggest (Scariest) triggers. Deep trust does not have to be immediate, it can be earned, but if a basic level of trust with your therapist isn’t there from the beginning I seriously doubt it will be there later on.

Likely how my therapist felt the first time I started crying in session

Rule 3 of successful therapy: allowing yourself to feel the feels. Personally, I choose to minimize my “negative” emotions in public. You know, crying, anger, depression etc. Allowing yourself to fully experience these in therapy is not only helpful to the process, I’d argue it’s necessary. What better place to feel all your feels than with someone in the room that you literally pay to help sort them out? So, when in therapy, ride those emotional waves friend! It might suck in the moment but if your experience is anything like mine, you’ll feel waaaaaaaay better afterwards.

That’s what I’ve figured out so far, and tbh therapy has been a big old ride but so worth it. If you’re on the fence about trying it out, do some research. Find out therapist specialties and pick one that addresses your needs; I picked an office that specializes in queer issues and anxiety/panic disorders and they selected a therapist for me based on a first time client survey asking what I wanted to get out of it. I can’t speak to other places, but most offices in my area have a first time client survey of some kind and will work with you to find the right therapist. Yes, they are getting paid to do this, but therapists don’t get into this line of work unless they want to help people. Would you want to sit and listen to people’s trauma all day unless you felt like you could help?

Here’s a list of other resources you might find helpful:

Let me know your experiences with therapy, good or bad. What works for you? Anything I should add to this post?

Self Care: Adult Version

“Taking care of yourself doesn’t mean me first, it means me too.”

L.R. Knost

Self Care: Overindulgent or Over-dramatized?

Let’s start with the basics. Self care is taking action to improve or maintain your health, mentally or physically. Recently, it has become an online joke especially among students. For example:

More often than not self care is perceived as a type of procrastination. Considered honestly, it’s true that self care can be taken to an extreme at the expense of responsibility. However, in moderation and for the right reasons, self care is an essential part of living a healthy life.

Let’s get real. When is self care appropriate?

Self care is justifiable anytime your work, social life, mental health or physical health suffers due to some kind of stress. Pretty broad justification for sure, so I’ll use my personal experience as an example.

Until recently, I was training as a 911 dispatcher. Due to the constant interaction with people in crisis, the consequential delivery of information with to other first responders and a generally over-stimulating environment, I frequently left work feeling drained and irritable. I get the sense that many of my coworkers had a similar experience, and the consequences of going five days a week without thinking about my own well-being began to surface. Here’s what happened:

  • I stopped being social outside of work
  • Little things my roommate did started irritating me
  • I got snippy with people over things that usually didn’t matter to me
  • My anxiety got worse, despite an increase in my dosage of medication
  • Pretty much all I did outside of work was sleep or lay in bed
  • I began to dread going to work, but told myself I was just tired

Basically, this was me:

Credit to RedBubble.com for the image

Would I have benefited from some self care?

The short answer is yes, but it wouldn’t have solved my problems. Long answer: I was not well suited to the job, and no amount of self care would solve that. However, self care may have saved me from the anxiety induced nightmare that became my life for several weeks before I resigned.

Self care is the equivalent of turning your phone or computer off and back on again to help it function better. I’ve heard the argument for naps being the human equivalent of this, but naps are part of self care so my point stands. Doing something as simple as washing the dishes while listening to music you like can help you take a step back from whatever is stressing you out. Sometimes noticing stress can be difficult, and people ignore the signs until they are overwhelmed by it.

Clearly, my response shows through exhaustion or irritability, which is fairly common. For others it surfaces as depression, anxiety, general unrest, insomnia, or hyper-focus. Response to stress is as unique, just like an individual’s triggers. Since there is no universal “you need self care” indicator, stress often goes untreated and results in situations like mine. Best practice is to engage in self care regularly whether or not you think you need it. If you’re not sure where to start, the basic idea is to do something that is fun for you or helps you relax. Here’s my go to de-stress activities:

  • Put on some music in my apartment at a loud volume and lip sync or sing along energetically when no one else is home.
  • Take a steamy shower and take my time instead of rushing through (My showers are typically 5 min or less).
  • Do the dishes. This may seem weird, but it’s a mindless activity and gives me time to just chill but still feel like I’ve accomplished something.
  • Go to the gym. But only if it’s not busy. I know people aren’t actually watching and judging, but I still prefer there to be less people around. Alternatively, go for a walk.
  • Put on my headphones and listen to music in my own little world while writing.
  • Go to a coffee shop and watch a movie or show. Sometimes I need to be around people while re-charging, and this is a non-interactive way to do it.

What do you do to de-stress? If you don’t know, maybe think about it.