Every Therapist Needs a Therapist, and So Do You! – A Post on Self-Care
One of the goals for this blog is for me to be transparent and to open up a dialogue where therapy is seen as a strength, rather than a taboo issue to talk about.
That said, I will be honest about my 20+ years (on and off) of being in therapy myself. It started because I was getting migraines in middle school from the anxiety of trying to keep up academically with my genius older brother. Self-care was not a priority at that time though. I didn’t want to use therapy to get better, and I was embarrassed to go and to admit to having one. Because of that, I had low self-esteem. It’s a shame because I had to deal with those debilitating migraines for way longer than I needed to.
Some of these clinicians were ineffective, and even made me feel worse. Many times, I could feel judgment waft over me as the therapist or social worker or psychologist pathologized my issues by labeling me with a DSM diagnosis. I have heard so many differential diagnoses over the years, but I know now as a clinician myself, that pathologizing all symptoms and naming a disorder is a dangerous game, which is why I don’t do it.
My reason for saying this is not to knock those professionals who deal with serious clinical cases that need to be properly medicated to function, but more for the common symptoms of depression, anxiety, ADHD, and the symptoms that are merely byproducts of the intense, stressful world we live in today. Pathologizing can lead a client to become the diagnosis, and to create psychosomatic symptoms and problems that wouldn’t otherwise exist. So a client who is not necessarily feeling all of the symptoms of depression can start to feel those symptoms just by hearing the diagnosis and all of the symptoms related to it. This has happened to me a bunch, which is why I feel qualified to express my distaste for it.
Another thing I have learned along the way is that there is no need to mess with a good thing. In other words, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It’s a common practice in mental health and medicine for patients to forgo the treatment that is being used to regulate the problem once symptoms subside. I remember going on and off of so many antidepressants and ditching my therapy sessions because I was asymptomatic for a minute. Bad call, young Dana.
Over time, I was able to gauge which therapists knew their shit, and which ones were full of it. Also, I made the mistake many times of leaving too soon, and feeling finished and ready, just to find that I would need continued support soon thereafter.
So, the reason for telling this part of my story is this…
Once you find a good match, its best to stick to that therapist like glue. Think of that person as your lifeline, the most important part of your self-care practice. As family and work and sex go up and down (pun intended), your therapist will be there to listen and remind you of the skills you have learned, or to equip you with new tools. Friends, family, and coworkers should NOT hear all of your issues. This can become a strain on relationships. And conversely, if there is no one you feel you can open up to, your therapist is there for that too. Leaving your issues deep down inside to fester creates a whole slew of separate problems.
I promise that I am not trying to sell you on anything, and I’m not saying that you need to go to therapy every single week for the rest of your life. The reason why I can make this sweeping generalization is because no one is exempt from facing life’s challenges. Everyone has stress because life is stressful. Over 30% of all humans will have the diagnosis of some form of anxiety-related disorder at one point in their lives. And so, I believe that therapy is crucial for every human, and it should be discussed openly and proudly, shouted from the rooftops even.
I AM IN THERAPY AND I AM OWNING IT BECAUSE IT MEANS THAT I AM PRACTICING SELF-CARE IN ORDER TO BE A WELL-ADJUSTED HUMAN WHO IS CAPABLE OF HAVING MATURE RELATIONSHIPS AND SUCCESS IN VARIOUS OTHER ASPECTS OF MY LIFE.
(In case you didn’t know, that was me shouting from the rooftops).
Unfortunately, many people feel as if they do not have access to a therapist due to financial constraints, but there are clinics and therapists who work on a sliding scale (like me). If you want it badly enough, you will find it. And there are many people who wrongly feel exempt, that therapy is merely a luxury and something that can fall by the wayside if life gets too hectic. Success in work and relationships are directly correlated to proper self-care. I truly believe that mental health care should be a basic human right on par with physical care.
I dream of the day when every person has a therapist, and I honestly fear the future without it.
Dana Maloney is a disruptive therapist, life coach, and founder of Good Enough Therapist. As a self-described Badass Therapist, she is on a mission is to disrupt the traditional therapy model by making it less sterile, less stigmatized, more affordable and more accessible. She is based in Venice, CA.