Therapy Doesn’t Have To Be Awful

by Holly Garcia
Originally Published: 

My primary physician had been telling me the same thing since 2017: You’ll get the most out of your (depression and anxiety) prescriptions if you couple it with talk therapy. Ugh. Yes, I wanted to stop my feet like a small child, and no, I didn’t want to go. Literally, I’d do the dishes, fold all three baskets of laundry, even watch my daughter’s choice of YouTube for an hour straight rather than go to therapy.

I was the master of stuffing down every uncomfortable feeling that crossed my chest for decades. Why change that now? Yes, I am as resistant to change as your mother’s great aunt who still folds up her wrapping paper at birthdays because she lived through the depression and refuses to be wasteful. Hell, I don’t judge. I may or may not have an entire moving box full of different occasion bags that I reuse when I gift.

See, I can (and will) go off on a whole gifting tangent in order to avoid therapy and the emotional overwhelm it’s likely to unpack.

I know. I’m doing a terrible job of selling therapy, but hear me out. I am putting this all out here because I need you to know, from the bottom of my heart, every single hesitation you’ve had about going to therapy, I understand. Because they were my hesitations too. I told myself my problems aren’t that bad. That there was nothing but embarrassment to be gained by telling a complete stranger my innermost workings. What if they thought I was crazy? What if they thought I was just whiny? Deep down, I’ve come to realize what I was actually afraid of. What if even therapy can’t fix me?

Therapy Outcomes

There are so many different kinds of therapy. Where the fuck do you even begin? First and foremost, answer the question, What do you want to get out of therapy?

I remember the first time my therapist, Dr. Kim*, asked me this. Wait, what? I’m here, isn’t it your job to fix me? Sorry to break it to ya babe, but that’s not quite how it works. Scary Mommy spoke with therapist Jacob Kountz to get some insight into the questions you have that might be holding you back.

Therapy is for you, so only you can decide what outcomes you are expecting. Some people go to learn how to better live with their mental illness. Others go to manage their anger or just to make sure they’re keeping themselves grounded. Point being, there is no wrong reason to decide to go to therapy. I made the reluctant decision to go because I found my medication alone wasn’t giving me enough support. Just like you take an aspirin for a headache, it might temporarily relieve your symptoms. But long term, if you don’t fix the root problem, your headaches won’t go away.

I hesitated because I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t even know if I’d like the person I was talking to. Just like any other relationship, the first person you talk to might not be the right fit. When it came to this Jacob explained, “From a therapist’s perspective, we understand each person has their level of comfortability developing a trusting relationship. But in all honesty, it depends. Some people have high expectations hoping they hit it off within the first half-hour. While others have lower expectations thinking after the first three sessions, they will make a decision to stick with that particular therapist or not.” In my experience, I had spoken to one other provider before settling it with Dr. Kim.

I remember the first time I met with her. The new year was upon us, but I finally decided I’d give it a try. Because we were in the middle of the pandemic, my first few sessions were virtual. I was so anxious when we had technical problems, I threw my hand up and the air and said, nope. Never again. Clearly, this is a sign that this whole therapy thing wasn’t meant to be. Yes, I know I’m just a little bit dramatic. But somehow, the next week, I found myself logging on to meet with her again. And guess what. It worked out okay.

Still Not Convinced?

While I’d argue therapy is as essential as any other routine appointments you keep for your physical health, I’m not a doctor, so what do I know? Because here’s the thing, you don’t have to have experienced a huge, disastrous, near-tragic event to start pursuing therapy.

During the conversation with Jacob, he made an interesting and equally important point: “Therapy will challenge you to live a life you’ve always wanted. Yes, therapy does work with some of the darkest times in people’s lives. But once we’re able to get through, learn new skills, develop better boundaries and relationships, it feels like your life can now be lived.”

Well, hot damn, there you have it, folks. From a therapist who also has both sides of the couch. At the end of the day, I’m not here to convince you to go to therapy. I’m here to encourage you to do whatever you need to do in order to live your best life. In sharing my experiences, I want to be a sign of support. I hope you know that whatever hesitations or reservations you have about going are totally normal, but don’t let that twitty, over-dramatic voice in your head be what keeps you from going. For each and every one of us, that’s going to look totally different. But the one fact that remains the same is that we are all deserving of a happy life (not to be confused with perfect) and nothing less.

*Dr. Kim’s name has been changed to safeguard my privacy.

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