Starting Therapy: A No Question Left Behind Therapy Q&A

Starting therapy is something I’ve wanted to do for a few years actually. But it wasn’t until December of last year that I decided it was finally time for me to bite the bullet and start going. 

I’ve been sharing a lot of therapy updates on my Instagram because I’ve never seen anyone talk too openly about therapy. The closest I’ve seen is Meghan Reinks on her socials and podcast, Don’t Blame Me. Which was actually one of my biggest motivators to start therapy! Meghan really normalized the idea of therapy for me and made me realize it’s not just for “broken” people and that anyone can benefit from it. And I want to do the same for my readers.

Hopefully, sharing my therapy journey will be as inspiring as Meghan was to me and help people realize therapy is normal. I also want to bring awareness to certain things that I didn’t even know were signs of possibly having anxiety until literally last year.

Even though I don’t go into major detail about what I talk about in therapy, talking about this makes me feel super vulnerable, so let’s keep this a kind place. Alright?

How to find a good therapist for you?

There are two ways going about finding a therapist: referrals from a doctor or by doing some of your own research. My first therapist was a referral from my general practitioner and  I found my current therapist on Psychology Today. You can search licensed counselors by city, specialization, and by which insurances they cover! It’s pretty fabulous. 

screen shot of Psychology Today therapist search

I would recommend making a list of three of four possible therapists you feel like you could vibe with, and afford, and then call them all to get quotes. Or just go with the first one and then if that doesn’t work out go down your list.

Don’t feel discouraged if you don’t find a therapist you vibe with right away. My first therapist made me feel very uncomfortable which made talking to him hard. Part of the reason I’m going to therapy is for not knowing how to have conversations with other people and he would force me to start every conversation, and gave no help on how to do so. That’s not a technique I can personally work with. So I made the effort to find a new therapist who worked differently and I clicked with her right away.

You’re going to be telling this person the darkest parts of your mind and if you don’t feel comfortable in the first sitting I doubt you will a few sessions down the line. Plus, if you’re waiting to get comfortable you’re just paying extra money. 

However, my new therapist actually told me it’s common for people pursuing therapy to give up when the first one doesn’t work out. So don’t be like everyone else, and don’t give up!

How much does therapy cost?

All therapists will charge a different rate, especially in different areas. To get a good idea of how expensive therapy is in your area just check out the listings on Psychology Today

For the Northern Kentucky area, most therapists charge $60-$150 a session before insurance. I honestly have no idea how much my first therapist cost or how much my insurance covered there because I never received his invoice in the mail? Still confused about that.

sitting in a white cherry blossom tree

My current therapist works at a counseling center that does not take insurance. But they still only charge $75 a session. This isn’t ideal, but it’s doable for me after I made some changes to my budget. Since starting therapy in January, I’ve bought a lot less clothing and any other frivolous items.

Had to switch out the retail therapy for the real therapy, ya know?

Why do I go to therapy?

The end of last year was probably the worst my mental health had ever been. I was sad almost every day, crying multiple times a week, becoming codependent on my then boyfriend, isolating myself from all my friends, and at the same time, I was so deep into it that I didn’t even realize it was all my (well my brain’s and thought processes’) fault.

I have a lot of social anxiety tendencies that make me think no one likes me nor ever wants to talk to me. Even if we’re friends and hang out, which is how I ended up isolating myself a lot last year. The only person I ever wanted to talk to was my boyfriend at the time, and he was obviously not a therapist so he wasn’t able to provide me the support and help I really needed. So one day, after breaking down in my kitchen and calling my mom crying, I decided it was time to start therapy.

Benefits of therapy?

There are obviously a lot of benefits of start therapy, but I thought I’d break them down a little more. Give some real-life examples you know? So I’m going to break this down into immediate benefits and long-term benefits.

Immediate Benefits of Therapy

There were two immediate benefits for me: always having someone to be able to talk to about anything and having an unbias third party for everything.

girl posing with cherry blossoms

Considering my social anxiety was making me feel super lonely, having someone to talk to about whatever I want for an hour was so refreshing. I love talking and will never shut up if I feel comfortable enough. (Just go listen to my podcast with Abigail for proof.)

If you feel like you have no one to talk to or only one person to talk to, I would say having a therapist could be super beneficial. That, or if you’re not one to take your issues to other people and don’t want to seem like you’re gossiping and telling your whole friend group or family your issues, a therapist could be your safe place to do that. Plus, then you’d know they’d always be giving you an unbias opinion/advice since they won’t have any predetermined opinions about all the people in your life like your peers might.

Long-Term Benefits of Therapy

Obviously, the point of going to therapy is to learn good coping mechanisms for what is preventing you from living your best life. Naturally, that is the most important long-term benefit of therapy. But there’s also just the organic progression of feeling validated.

Therapy Validates your Thoughts and Feelings

Just right after my first therapy session I remember going on Instagram stories and saying, “It felt good to just talk and not be called I’m crazy and to have someone listen.” So it’s easy to see how after now having eight sessions I feel a lot less alone and heard.

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I am in the minority of people who aren’t having a hard time with quarantine. Until starting therapy recently, it was normal for me to not be around people for so long that I forgot the sound of my own voice. However, am I still upset it came at a time when I was making breakthroughs in therapy and progress on not feeling so isolated from other people? Yes. — But quarantine has made me realize that I had been purposely isolating myself from other people and blaming it on thinking people didn’t like me. Being forced to actually isolate psychically has brought me closer to friends through FaceTime dates and virtual Netflix parties. And it’s brought me closer to myself and the fact that my social anxiety may be a hindrance sometimes, but I won’t let it rule my life now in quarantine and not when I can safely go out into the world again. 🌎 — How are you doing right now in quarantine? . . . . . #selfisolation #stayhomechallenge #selfportraiture #anxietyfighter #mentalhealthadvocate #workingonme #selfportraitphotography

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Every time I go into therapy she validates my thoughts and feelings. Therapy is a safe place and as I keep going to sessions, my thoughts and feelings have started to flow more freely, in and outside of sessions. I like to accredit this to the fact that I have fewer thoughts bouncing around in my head. I’m not sure about you, but when I have a lot of things on my mind and haven’t told anyone most of them I start to think no one wants to hear them. So as I’ve had someone to talk to on a regular basis, that feeling of not wanting to be heard has slowly evaporated.

Coping Mechanisms I’ve Learned

On top of that, therapy has taught me some invaluable ways to cope with my anxious thoughts. The ones I use often are deep breathing, the grounding (or mindfulness) method, and challenging my anxious thoughts.

Deep breathing seems to be the most common technique. Basically, when you start to feel anxious, and before you lose control of your breathing, you make a conscious effort to take slow deep breaths. This tricks your brain into thinking you are not “in danger” and can help slow down a racing heartbeat. I’ve used this before giving presentations, going into interviews, and even before getting a new piercing.

Related: I Wore a Fake Lip Ring and Something Happened I Didn’t Expect

posing with cherry blossoms with shadows across girl's face

The grounding method is something I apparently already halfway practiced before being formally introduced to it. Basically, it’s stopping and taking a moment to really take in what all your senses are experiencing at that moment. This will help to pull yourself back to your “thinking brain,” as my therapist calls it. You just take mental note of one thing you see, one thing you hear, one thing you taste, one thing you smell, and one thing you feel.

Lastly, we have the hardest technique: challenging your thoughts. This is the technique that works the best for me, but one my therapist says a lot of people struggle with. You have to be very self-aware and know the thoughts or feelings you are having are rooted in anxiety, and not facts, for this to work.

I’m triggered by social situations so I know to challenge my thoughts if I start to get anxious around people. If I start thinking “no one wants to hear what you have to say” or “they’ll make fun of you if you say that,” I stop myself and instead say, “That is just my anxiety talking. You have no proof they will react negatively. And if they do, at least you tried.

How long does it take to see progress?

I used to go to therapy every other week, and then at the beginning of March, I switched to going every three or four weeks. Why? Because I was making progress. I no longer have enough to talk about in just two weeks anymore. We love growth!

For example, I’ve been keeping track of my daily happiness level since the beginning of the year and since starting therapy my average daily happiness level has gone from about a 3.5 to a 4.8. If that isn’t true progress I don’t know what is!!

How? Mostly due to utilizing healthier coping mechanisms and learning ways to be more self-aware of my anxiety and thought processes.

posing with cherry blossoms with shadows across girl's face

There are so many things I think and do that I thought everyone did, but turns out the majority of people don’t. One example being if someone didn’t text me back within ten minutes I assumed they didn’t want to talk to me anymore and were too polite to say so. 

Then my therapist gave me a list of nine thinking habits that are common for people with anxiety tendencies, and I realized those thoughts fell under the catastrophizing habit. The catastrophizing habit is when you expect disaster and spend a lot of energy feeling panicky and anxious. 

Turns out there are five other common thinking habits my brain follows as well:

  • ~ The “I can’t!” habit: when you automatically conclude that you’re not capable of meeting a new challenge which makes you give up before trying and therefore making you feel sad and anxious
  • ~ The all-or-nothing habit: when you see life in extremes. If a certain event doesn’t happen the “right” way then it is all wrong. Therefore you feel down on yourself and get irritated with others
  • ~ The “I should, you should” habit: when you hold yourself/other people to rigid and unreasonable standards, and if they are not met you become disappointed and irritated
  • ~ The fortune-telling habit: when you jump to the conclusion that you’re going to mess up or a future event will be a disappointment. This makes you feel down on yourself, unmotivated, and resentful
  • ~ The mind-reading habit: when you jump to the conclusion that someone else is thinking about you and therefore you feel unsure of yourself and anxious

Since learning this, I’ve been able to notice when my thoughts start to take a wrong turn easier and I can step back and tell myself, “This is just your anxiety.

I had gotten so caught up in thinking my thoughts and reactions to certain situations were my personalities and that I couldn’t change those parts of me, even though they made my life harder.

And then I started therapy and realized that I can in fact change and police the way I think if I actually put in the effort. I don’t have to live being sad and lonely all the time anymore, and for that, I am so grateful I decided to start therapy.

I hope reading this helped to destigmatize the idea therapy for you. That’s all I can really hope for. 

Have you ever been to therapy?

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