Mental health was a not a topic that I grew up discussing in my home and other spheres of my young life (i.e. school, church etc.) but I’ve really come to feel strongly about it in my adult life. It’s considered taboo in the black community because of our often very strong religious beliefs or the overall denial and/or dismissal of mental health issues. I’ve always maintained (and continue to maintain for that matter) that you can go to therapy and you’re religious beliefs can remain in tact. Trust me, I love Jesus, but I also believe in the process of therapy. I think God gives us tools and uses people to help us get through the painful moments of our lives.
I began therapy in my early 20s after I returned home to live with my mother after graduating from Grinnell College. I dealt with depression/anxiety issues because of the stuff that was going on with her. The university I attended for my master’s offered discounted therapy sessions so I decided to take advantage of them. Initially, I was skeptical because I previously tried therapy at Grinnell and was not impressed. However, I needed help so I decided to give it a try. I’m glad that I did because it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.
I’ve continued to go to therapy intermittently throughout my 20s and will probably continue going when necessary in my life. I think it’s a part of living a healthy existence as going to get a physical. I think everyone should try it at least once. Here are a few tips that I’ve learned about therapy along the way:
Finding a therapist is like dating. Finding a therapist is about finding the right fit Do you have chemistry with your therapist? Do you feel comfortable with your therapist? I’ve seen about five therapists in my lifetime and I had a connection with each of them them. I felt like they understood me and could really help me. Sometimes you know if the connection is there right away and other times if might take a few sessions to really figure it out. If you’re reluctant because you’re a Christian, they do have Christian therapists/counselors 😉
Therapists don’t fix you. They simply give you the tools to help you realize how to think about and handle things differently. Sometimes it’s just a matter of talking to an outsider (with a license and clinical understanding) who can offer different ways about approaching your situation(s). Maybe this is very narcissistic of me, but I really enjoy going in my therapy session and talking about me for an hour. It’s fabulous! Sometimes I don’t have a goal in mind or something I’m trying to work through at the moment but I simply want to vent.
Go for a therapist of the same gender. This might be controversialand slightly hypocritical because I am seeing a male therapist now. I say this because this is the first time that I’m seeing a man and it is very different than seeing a woman. I think I can be a lot more open with women about certain things. I also think it’s a way of guarding your heart because you’re opening up yourself and being vulnerable – I think for me it’s just best I have a female therapist in the future.
Be open to the process. Revisiting traumatic experiences and digging through issues can be exhausting! Be open to the process – help your therapist help you! Change doesn’t happen overnight so be patient with yourself and available to receive healing during this process.