My Therapy Story
People enter therapy for a number of reasons- but most do it to work through a life-changing event or to work on something about themselves that isn’t working for them. There are other reasons, but these seem to be the most common. Many go voluntarily, which is likely the easiest way because the client is the most open-minded. Some go under a court order, for example, for anger management after multiple assault charges. In that case, the client isn’t always the most forthcoming in their sessions and it may be harder for them to get the work done.
I began therapy in October 2015. A month prior, I had lost a very close friend to suicide, and I was not dealing with it very well. Most suicide loss survivors have a hard time dealing with the loss, but I pretty much went over the edge. My drinking became worse than it had been in the past, I was barely functional (this is not good when you have kids), and I had become someone I barely recognized. In fact, I had inadvertently hurt someone that I wouldn’t have hurt otherwise. I realized that this was no longer something that I could handle on my own, even though I had the support of my husband, friends, and even my friend Jake’s family. I remained close to one of his brothers (we had been friends for a few years) and had become friends with one of his cousins after meeting her at the funeral home. It was time to reach out.
I started looking online for nearby therapists and found a list on Find A Therapist. I contacted one that met my needs and began therapy two weeks later. I was a bit nervous, as most people are, even though by then, I had 8 years of working in mental health behind me. It’s a bit different to go on the other side of my career.
It turns out that Rachel was a wonderful therapist. I spent the first session mainly filling out paperwork and talking about the basics- what I wanted to work on and other information. I started out going to see her every week because I had so much going on. I was grieving, trying to piece my marriage back together, and trying to find myself again. I needed to repair my heart, self-worth, self- respect and find new coping skills. Drinking isn’t a healthy one. I eventually went down to every two weeks, then every three.
I am happy to report that after two and a half years, I finished therapy at the beginning of May 2018. I also stopped drinking in January 2017, which puts me at 16 months of sobriety as of this post date, May 18, 2018. I was able to process and grieve Jake’s death, work on my marriage, and I feel a lot better about myself. I still struggle sometimes, but I know that it’s okay. My husband and I are still together.
How Can You Get the Most Out of Therapy?
- Show up! I don’t mean just walk in, sit there and talk. I turned my phone on silent, put it in my purse and didn’t touch it again until Rachel and I were scheduling my next session. I even kept a list of things to talk about between sessions so I wouldn’t forget. I have short term memory issues, so this helps. I suggest this even without memory problems- you don’t want to forget the things that can be beneficial to talk about.
- Don’t be afraid of being judged. If you feel like you are being judged, find a new therapist. Mental health professionals, myself included, are trained to not judge. We’re trained to have a poker face, no matter what we hear. This can get pretty difficult, depending on what your specialty is, but therapists are not there to judge. They are there to listen to you and help you figure out solutions to the issues you are having. Talk freely- use up every last minute that you have. I sure did.
- Put in the work. If you’re not going to do the work, you might not be ready for therapy yet. Therapy sounds great until you realize there’s more to it than just talking. You may be asked to try things that you may not really like. Example: Rachel asked me to try trusting people more, and that’s not a fun thing for me. I’ll admit I rolled my eyes at her and grumbled a bit before I agreed to it. We discussed some small steps that I could take to be a bit more trusting of people. Even though I’m out of therapy, I’m still working on this.
- Include your support system. My husband was super supportive throughout my time in therapy. He knew that part of my being there was to work on myself so that our marriage had a chance of surviving. We discussed what went on in each session (not in a demanding way, like “What did you talk about? Did you make me look bad?” kind of way) and if Rachel had any suggestions for him. She did at some points, but not at others. If I talked about issues we were having at the time, she would give me pointers to discuss and/or try. Matthew did everything she suggested, mainly because he wanted to help me be happy and make our marriage work. My friends and family were very happy to see me in therapy and often asked how it was going. You may have more support than you think.
- Use those coping skills! One of the best things about therapy is learning new coping skills. It took a while before I stopped drinking, but I am very glad that I did. I’m much happier. I’m still working on talking about my feelings on a bad day, but I have other coping skills that get me through the bad days- writing in a journal, coloring (adult coloring books), reading, music, meditation, watching something funny, and sometimes yoga.
I have been an advocate for therapy since before I went into it. I will always be glad that I trusted Rachel to help me rebuild my life, even though the reason was a horrible one. Therapy can change your life if you let it- just be ready for lots of change.