Why Seeing a Therapist Is WorthwhileWhy Seeing a Therapist Is Worthwhile

Maybe you’ve always thought people only go to therapy if there’s something wrong with them – it’s like admitting you’re a failure or a nut. But actually, therapy is nothing to be ashamed of. Even if you don’t have any type of mental illness (and it’s also ok if you do!) it’s useful to talk to a therapist to work through your own thoughts and feelings.

Who Therapy is for

The main category of people that therapy helps is those who are human and have feelings – in short, everyone.

Most of us don’t grow up knowing how to handle our feelings well or communicate in the most effective way with others. It’s not something our culture or education does a good job of teaching us. Therapists are specifically trained in helping people to develop those skills.

A trip to therapy is usually more worthwhile when you’re dealing with something big in life – a loss, relationship troubles or a transitional period – but it can be illuminating and useful even when you’re not. A good therapist can help you with life skills that make your day-to-day a little better even when things are fine.

What Therapy Can Teach You

It’s important here to clarify that therapy isn’t magic – you can’t go to one appointment and ­­– Poof! – all your problems are gone. But if you find a good therapist and put in the time and work, you can make some serious strides toward many of life’s biggest challenges.

As a starter list, therapy is useful for:

  • Teaching people how to communicate with loved ones better
  • Teaching people to control their anger
  • Helping people manage stress better – which pays off in reducing stress-related health issues as well
  • Helping people beat depression
  • Helping people deal with loneliness
  • Helping people and their families face a difficult diagnosis
  • Teaching people how to manage and reduce anxiety
  • Providing techniques to improve many of the little things about yourself and your life you don’t like

Caregivers face a lot of stress and generally have difficulty balancing their other priorities with caregiving. Therapy can help with that.

Seniors face high risks of loneliness and depression, often on top of (or due to) the grief of losing loved ones and facing difficult health problems. Therapy can help with that too.

Therapy doesn’t make problems go away, but it teaches you how to face them in a way that makes them more manageable and less destructive to yourself and those around you.

How to Get What You Need Out of Therapy

As mentioned, therapy isn’t a fast and easy solution. You have to approach it the right way and be willing to do the work the therapist recommends. That could even mean homework in between visits. For seniors it’s probably been a long time since you had “homework” so it may take a mental shift to get used to it.

If you’re going to give therapy a try, here’s how to increase your chances of getting what you need from it.

Rule #1: Have an open mind.

If you go into it assuming you won’t get anything out if it or thinking it’s all cheesy, well, you won’t get anything out of it. First things first, you have to trust that your therapist knows what they’re doing and cares about helping you. Be prepared to listen to what they have to say and seriously consider it – even if it’s not always something you think you want to hear.

Rule #2: Be honest.

Sometimes honesty is embarrassing. Sometimes honesty is so difficult to face that it reveals something we don’t even want to admit it to ourselves. You have to go into each therapy session with a willingness to tell your therapist what you’re really thinking and feeling – even when you’re worried it might reflect badly on you, and even when it means talking about something you usually prefer not to think about.

Rule #3: Don’t be ashamed.

This rule applies both in the room and out. Therapists are trained to listen to patients without judgment. That doesn’t mean they won’t ever be stern about telling you something you don’t want to hear, but their focus is on listening and helping, rather than passing judgment on what they hear. Don’t be embarrassed to admit any upsetting or dark thoughts you may have. They have to hear them before they can help you with them.

And unfortunately, you may still encounter the occasional person who doesn’t respect therapy. Don’t let their opinions get to you. Much of our current culture now understands that therapy can be useful, so those who see it as shameful are in the minority. And anyone who intentionally avoids therapy due to shame and stigma is missing out, while you’ll get to take advantage of the benefits of gaining a deeper understanding of yourself and how best to navigate through this world.

Rule #4: It’s ok to shop around.

Not all therapists are created equal. If your first experience isn’t great, that doesn’t necessarily mean therapy isn’t right for you – it might just mean that particular therapist isn’t right for you.

Therapists are still human, so while they all get special training to do this, that training doesn’t make them perfect at their job for all possible patients. You might need to give a couple therapists a try until you settle on the one that’s really right for you.

How to Find a Therapist

Start by asking around to see if friends, family members, or your doctor can offer a recommendation for therapists they like. Word-of-mouth references are generally a good way to know you’re in good hands.

If your insurance covers therapy, then do some searches through your insurance website to see who’s covered in your area. Medicare also covers therapy up to a point. Seniors can search on Psychology Today to find therapists in their area that take Medicare.

Many therapists have specialties, so if you know you need someone who focuses on helping people deal with grief or one that knows all about finding strategies to handle stress, you can identify a therapist suited to your needs with a little research. Check the listings on GoodTherapy.org and Psychology Today, where you can search by location and see details and specialties of therapists in your area at a glance.

When you find someone who seems like a good fit, give them a call. A lot of therapists will provide an introductory call free of charge so you have a chance to chat and see if they feel right for you before you commit to an appointment. You’ll have a better first session if you go into it feeling comfortable and confident that you’re making the right choice.

 

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based copywriter and lifelong student with an ongoing curiousity to learn and explore new things. She turns that interest to researching and exploring subjects helpful to seniors and their families for SeniorAdvisor.com.

11 Comments

  1. Rosie Beckett September 10, 2018 Reply

    My husband has been suffering from a lot of work stress and he is thinking about seeing a therapist, so I am glad that I found this article because I had no idea that there are so many benefits. It is interesting that you say therapy can teach you to manage stress better because this would be a huge benefit to my husband. Also, the fact that therapy can provide techniques to improve yourself would help my husband in all aspects of his life!

  2. Amy Winters October 24, 2018 Reply

    I’m glad you pointed out that therapy can help teach you how to better manage your stress, which will be worthwhile since stress is responsible for a variety of health problems. I recently got a promotion at work, and the increase of responsibility has left me feeling stressed out almost constantly. I didn’t realize that therapy could teach me how to manage it, so thanks for letting me know!

  3. Renz Path November 5, 2018 Reply

    It is good that you mentioned some of the good things that a therapy can do like helping people beat depression and deal with loneliness. My grandmother seems to be feeling depressed and lonely since my grandfather passed away. Though that looks pretty normal, I think hiring the service of a therapist who can help her deal with those mood swings will likely be good for her so that she can open up herself too as she’s often left only with the helper at home. We will look for that person who can give her wise counsel and understand her mood swings as well.

  4. Duncan Lance November 29, 2018 Reply

    It really can surprise people to learn that therapists can be beneficial for older people as well. As the article points out, therapy can help with a lot of things including stress and anxiety. This can be very helpful as you get older as your life will tend to get a lot more stressful.

  5. Joy Butler January 7, 2019 Reply

    I like how you said that a therapist often doesn’t tell you what you want to hear, but rather what you need to hear. I agree that you should really heed their advice because they know what they are doing and can help you. I will have to be mindful of that moving forward as I start attending therapy.

  6. Sariah Meagle February 4, 2019 Reply

    Some professional counseling services might be useful to me since you mentioned that it helps to manage stress better and I’m dealing with a lot lately. Since you mentioned that it’s ok to shop around, I’ll see which therapist is most compatible with me to know how I can handle myself better. I’ll try to see who can deal with stress best as you said that they have specialties which can help me know who is a good fit for me.

  7. Sam Li February 28, 2019 Reply

    I love what you suggested about asking friends and family members for references when seeking out a therapist. I think that becoming a therapist may be a worthwhile experience because it allows you to be influential in other peoples’ lives. If I were to pursue such a profession, I would make sure to find a school that could work with my hectic schedule.

  8. Bernard Button April 10, 2019 Reply

    I can see why seeing a therapist is worth it. I love how you said that you need to go in and keep an open mind. It makes sense that you need to take it seriously. I’ll tell my mom that because she’s struggling with depression.

  9. Dave Anderson May 23, 2019 Reply

    That is a good point that therapists are trained to listen without judgment. Maybe it would be good to go and visit a therapist to help me through my anxiety. Soon I will have to look into this so I can start to feel better.

  10. Ashley Johnson July 30, 2019 Reply

    I liked that you said that counselors and therapists have the ability to help teach you important skills that will help you to become happier. I would imagine that this would be important when struggling with mental disorders. I would be sure to visit a therapist for help if I was struggling.

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