My proudest moment of 2017 was getting a therapist. Therapy saved my life, literally.
I had a “aha moment” last year when I personally realized how serious mental health is and realized I should do something about it. I am no expert, but I’m here to share my experiences on getting a therapist and why EVERYONE should consider getting a therapist.
Dysfunction is not my inheritance – Ebonee Davis
Why should you get a therapist?
Life is a lot no matter what. We take on a lot of responsibilities but forget about the responsibility of taking care of ourselves. Therapy is a way to practice self-care regularly.
People seek therapists for many reasons including: grief, anxiety, depression, trauma, or simply coping with day-to-day life situations. I personally got a therapist because I was losing a lot of sleep due to severe anxiety. I wasn’t able to function in life, like going to work and being social. Although my anxiety is what made me get a therapist, please know that you don’t have to be suffering from a mental illness to seek a therapist, it is normal to just have someone who’s a professional to talk to on a consistent basis.
What is therapy?
Most of us only knowledge on therapy is what we’ve seen in movies and on television, which is misrepresented. Good therapy states that therapy is the process of meeting with a therapist to resolve problematic behaviors, beliefs, feelings, relationship issues, and/or somatic responses (sensations in the body).
When I first started researching therapy, I didn’t know what I wanted out of it. I honestly just wanted to be able to sleep and feel better about life. Once you get a therapist, you will discuss the best treatment plan for you. For example, my treatment plan was to understand my anxious feelings, correct irrational thinking, overcome social anxiety, and eliminate toxic behaviors.
Depending on how severe your symptoms are you may be advised to see a psychiatrist – a medical doctor who prescribes medication. Taking medication for mental illnesses is also a stigma we have in the black community, if a doctor suggests medication you should be open and not ashamed. Sometimes there are chemical imbalances in the brain that can cause depression and anxiety, medication will ease this. However, taking the medicine alone won’t help your symptoms go away. You will still need therapy, a healthy diet, exercise, the practice of mindfulness, etc. Overcoming depression and anxiety is sort of a full-time job but it’s completely worth it. Also, don’t believe any of the myths about medication. Personally, a combination of both cognitive behavioral therapy and medication has helped me, once the medicine kicked in, my symptoms alleviated and I was able to focus more on my tasks from therapy. I would have loved to go the organic way, but I had to do what was best for me. Everyone is different so do your research and figure out what’s best for you.
Obstacles with Therapy
Therapy is expensive. I’m talking $125 – $200 a session. I thank God I had full coverage with my insurance because if not, you would not be reading this right now. Although I lucked up, it can be challenging finding a therapist with an affordable price and also finding one that your insurance covers. This can be frustrating because you want to get help but it’s simply unaffordable. To start your research, I would suggest looking at the list of therapists your primary care provider has and going from there. You may even want to try out virtual therapy, it’s a significantly lower price and more accessible.
Finding the time. When I first began therapy I went weekly, and then biweekly as my symptoms alleviated. It can be hard finding the time to see a therapist because of your work schedule or your therapist may have other patients that coincide with the times you are available. Don’t make this an excuse, find the time. Make time for your well-being.
Dealing with the Stigma and Having a Support System
Having a conversation about your mental health is so uncomfortable. There are only a few people who completely understand my situation, and these are the people I’m most comfortable talking with about it. Keeping therapy a secret until you become comfortable sharing that you have a therapist is fine. There are a lot of people that are uneducated in this area, and their feedback can be really toxic. I was called a “psycho” and had people tell me that I don’t need a therapist because I can control my thoughts on my own. It is true that you are able to control your thoughts, but it’s really not that simple.
If you are suffering severely from a mental health issue, you aren’t able to control your thoughts, behavioral therapy helps you understand why these thoughts are happening, how to make them stop and what to do when they come.
It is also mainly learning and practicing new skills to eliminate toxic behaviors, which is hard and requires strong discipline. Your therapist is not going to be available 24/7, so you will need someone to talk to who is supportive and understanding. Also remember, you can explain how you’re feeling over and over to someone but if they haven’t gone through it, they may not understand and will say “it’s not that deep” so stay away from those kind during your healing process.
Finding a therapist
During the summer, I kept hearing about the benefits of getting a therapist. From listening to The Friend Zone podcast to watching Molly on Insecure. I wanted to take that step but I did not how to go about it. Towards the end of the summer, I came across Therapy For Black Girls and was like, WOW.
I was extremely happy to come across this because during my senior year, I tried counseling but did not return because I could not connect with the counselor. I felt like he had no idea what I was talking about.
From that experience, I knew I needed a woman who was black to be my therapist. There is a lack of African Americans in the psychology field, so Therapy for Black Girls is a wonderful resource. The Therapist Directory is a listing of mental health professionals across the country who provide high quality, culturally competent services to Black women and girls. Although I didn’t find my therapist from the site, it is still a great online space to encourage mental wellness of black women and girls. If you can’t afford therapy, check out their blog and podcast.
When finding a therapist, it is perfectly okay to be picky. This will be the person you will be extremely vulnerable with and it’s important for you to feel comfortable. Fortunately, my therapist and I were a perfect match. She didn’t have a hard time understanding where I was coming from and we both graduated from the same university, which was a plus. I really appreciated my therapist and was sad to end my treatment once I moved away.
I am saying this because if you don’t click with your therapist and don’t feel they are helping you, seek out others. Just because someone has a PhD doesn’t mean they are good.
When you book your appointment, you are going to get a lot of anxious thoughts because you don’t know what to expect. You are also going to leave that first session feeling emotionally drained. You may feel hopeless and like there is too much damage to fix but you are just overwhelmed in the moment. My therapist told me “this is not your life, and I’m going to help you,” those simple words made me feel so hopeful.
I am a very private person naturally. Side note: I can’t believe I’m writing this haha.
However, I had to tell myself this lady is here to help me and holding back is pointless. So, when you go into the appointment be completely honest about what’s going on in your life, what’s bothering you and what’s your treatment goals.
During the session, I was shocked, my therapist basically told me my symptoms were severe and I needed to be on medication immediately. My symptoms got worse after the first session, I didn’t know what to do because I never imagined I’d have to take medication and I didn’t get any positive feedback when I shared that information with family. I stuck with it though.
Therapy isn’t an overnight thing, it takes time. I started therapy in the middle of November and didn’t see real results until the beginning of the year.
I want to give a small glimpse of how my sessions went to get an idea. In the beginning of the session I would discuss what has been going on in my life since I’ve last seen her and it was always A LOT. We’d have a discussion about it, talk about how I feel and then move on to problem-solving. At the end of the session, my therapist always gave me homework and exercises to practice. We also established goals and shared the process in the next session.
Therapy is a two-way street. You have to make sure you’re putting in the work to see process. Cancelling appointments, not completing assigned tasks, and not being honest could really delay your healing journey. And you will also just be wasting your time and money.
Cliche but therapy made me see life completely different.
I understand that dysfunction is not normal.
I know that boundaries are necessary when it comes to toxic environments and people. You have to remove yourself in order to heal.
Self-talk is necessary. I pay close attention to how I speak to myself now.
Therapy made me realize that my thoughts aren’t real, I actually laugh at all of the toxic things I told myself that was holding me back in life.
I am understanding of my emotions and others around me emotions and it is truly a blessing. For me, if I start to get wrapped up in my thoughts, I know how to get out of it so I won’t fall back into depression. For others, I know if someone is being negative toward me, its because they are dealing with something internally and I can either distance myself or try to provide them help.
I know that to feed into the negativity is pointless and unhealthy.
I am also on a journey to becoming fully conscious in life. It is challenging but it is one of my biggest goals.
My purpose is becoming clearer and clearer every day. My relationship with God is stronger, I am feeling His presence in my life a lot lately and it is beautiful.
I am creating the life I want to live and making space for manifestation.
Basically, life is so much better now that I’ve gone through therapy.
God bless you if you are still reading this because this was a long one. As you can see I made becoming mentally healthy a priority and I want everyone to make sure this is a priority in their life. Therapy is uncomfortable and so is growth. Both of these things are rewarding you just have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone.
Comment and let me know if this was helpful for you or if you have any additional questions about my experience. I’ll be happy to answer.