4 Things Holding You Back from Therapy and Why They’re Not True: Guest Post by Time With

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(image: Feminist Current/ Snoopy)

Taking a leap into the unknown always requires bravery. Now think of that ‘unknown’ as yourself. All those dark, niggly or somewhat strange parts of ourselves we keep buried away in the hope that they might just disappear if we keep pushing them away for long enough. Yup, therapy is totally exposing – and frankly, terrifying. So it’s little wonder we find ourselves coming up with a million and one excuses to explain why it’s not for us. Avoidance runs through our veins – it’s human nature. But it also holds us back, and at its very worst, avoidance can stall us from moving forward and reaching our potential.

 

Sometimes it’s worth digging a little deeper to properly explore our reasoning. That way we can be sure we’re not standing in the way of our own progress. Below we’ve listed some of the most common excuses we hear when it comes to therapy (and why we think they’re mostly rubbish!)

 

I don’t know where to start”

It’s true, in the past finding a therapist has been anything but easy. Sifting through directories packed full of conflicting approaches and unfamiliar terms… It’s hardly surprising we’re left scratching our head wondering what any of it means. But fortunately, those days are now firmly in the past. Searching for a therapist online is quick and easy. There’s no need to get carried away in lots of research, now you can just work your way through a few simple questions and be connected directly with the right therapists nearby. If you’re interested in finding a therapist best matched to your needs, TimeWith’s online questionnaire matches you with suitable therapists in minutes.

 

“I can’t afford it”

This is valid- there’s no two-ways about it, therapy isn’t cheap. But in reality, it’s a small price to pay when weighed up alongside its many benefits. Good therapy has the potential to completely transform your life. Whether you want to learn how to relate better in your relationships, manage stress and flourish in your career, or you simply want shed light on recurring behaviours or patterns… Therapy has the potential to do all those things (and more).

 

Also, it’s important to remember that therapy isn’t forever. It’s not about making a lifetime commitment. It’s an investment, and there’s a really wonderful feeling that comes with the decision to invest in your own mental and emotional wellbeing. If money’s an issue, never be afraid to ask your therapist about concessions. Lots of therapists offer what’s known as a sliding scale meaning they can offer a discount according to your financial situation.

 

What can a stranger offer me that my friend’s can’t”

To think of therapy as a friendly heart-to-heart is to misunderstand it completely. There’s no doubt in the value of having a good, solid support system in our friends and family. But your therapist isn’t your friend – in fact, there are very strict rules around that in therapy. Your therapist will always remain neutral allowing them to take a uniquely objective standpoint. It can be easy to get so wrapped up in our own story that we don’t see the broader picture. By extension, friends and family are part of our story. They can be happy or sad for us, but they will always have something at stake in our life. It’s only inevitable that this colours their advice and approach, whether they mean to intentionally or not.

 

Habits, patterns, thoughts… Whether we like to admit it or not, we’re more alike than we think. Whilst our experiences in life will be completely different, the coping mechanisms we adopt to deal with what happens to us in life very often follow similar patterns. Therapists are trained to recognise these signals and guide us towards coming to our own realisations. The best moments in therapy are those a-ha moments – the kind that friends and family struggle to provide us with, no matter how much they love us.

 

What’s going to change”

Everything, potentially. But of course, what you get out of therapy comes down to what you’re prepared to put into it – as with most things in life. Film depictions of therapy have done us a disservice for the most part. Despite appearances, therapy isn’t about rambling on Woody Allen-style about our neuroses. Don’t get us wrong, the talking part’s great! But what therapy’s really good at is finding solutions.

It’s all too easy to bulldoze our way blindly through life living out the same patterns time and time again. Good therapy is about taking accountability for the way we are. But that can only happen when we dig deeper and understand the whys. Far from self-blame, this process actually allows us to forgive ourselves for thoughts or behaviour we haven’t liked. To understand that it was the only way we knew how. But with this new awareness also comes the responsibility to change… There aren’t any excuses anymore.

This is the heart of therapy – we slowly peel back the layers to see ourselves in the clear light of day, no pretences. It might seem scary at first, but in reality, it’s liberating.

TimeWith is a service dedicated to helping people reach the right therapist. Run through a quick online questionnaire and connect with suitable therapists in your area.

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Therapy Tales Part One.

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My therapy journey began at just 15 years old- when I went to see the school counsellor for talking therapy due to suffering my first anxious and depressive episode (before I was diagnosed as bipolar).

Since then- 13 years later, I have tried many different kinds of therapies to help heal me from my anxiety disorder and help manage my bipolar disorder. Therapy still has a stigma, which is wrong,- but it is vital to the healing and recovery of mental illness and general healing from stressful life events eg deaths, divorce, moving house, illness.

I have done many forms of therapy, starting off with talking therapies- where you talk to your therapist about whats going on in your life (and sometimes they psychoanalyse in order to help you). I then did 3 lots of Cognitive Behavioural therapy (CBT). This is where you unpack your negative thoughts and assumptions that cause your illness in thought records, where you learn to challenge thoughts and change behaviour. However, for me, CBT was frustrating. I felt like I couldn’t fully apply it and it didn’t click with my brain.

I felt that the anxiety and panic I was dealing with was very much in the subconscious- and so the CBT could not eradicate the emotional, deep response that had formed within me to certain situations. It was then I began to realise the power of exposure therapy- which is essentially, exposing yourself to your feared situation slowly, with support. The more I went out, the more people I saw and the more I did, the anxiety began to lessen. It boosted my self esteem too to know I could overcome my fears. It is something that has to be practised and you have to be kind to yourself too and in the right head space for it to work,.

Of course, therapy works in conjunction with medications and it is also vital to make sure you like your therapist and have a good relationship with them. If you dread seeing them and you aren’t getting much from it, they are likely to be the wrong therapist for you.

I have done many other therapies: art therapy (which I loved and recommend hugely if you enjoy it), meditation and deep breathing (which I still do and which really helps my anxiety) and of course the unique therapy that friends and family bring. There are more therapies out there including ACT and its always worth googling therapies.

Ultimately, don’t be too scared about sharing with a therapist. They are trained professionals, have seen it before and they are there to support you. It is also very much trial and error. Even though CBT wasn’t for me, I found other therapies which have worked.

Just be aware that NHS therapy waiting lists are months long, so if you have the money to get private care, do.

I have worked with both psychologists, psychotherapists, occupational therapists (during a period of group therapy) and of course psychiatrists in order to keep well. It is very much a collaborative effort and now I am much better, I can deal with it with my support network (with my psychiatrist in the background)

I hope you find the right course of therapy for you and know you can heal from whatever stresses you are dealing with.

Guest Post by Richie: Dealing with anxiety, Live Your Now

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(image:weheartit.com)

I was honoured to be asked to write a piece on anxiety for this wonderful blog.  I’m Richie, and I’m a mindfulness coach – one who happens to have had anxiety for as long as I can remember.  The thing is, I didn’t always know I had it.  I’ve been researching positive psychology methods etc for many years, but I wasn’t coping so headed to see a counsellor who referred me for a course of CBT after having pointed out – Sir, you have bad anxiety.

Me?

Yes I’d had panic attacks, people would describe me as quite reactive, amongst other things – and after all these years, to discover it was my “fight or flight” mechanism going into overdrive & attaching to situations in had no business being in, well, I was not impressed to say the least! How did I miss this? I felt initially extremely put out by this, I saw myself as a “fighter” – I got on with things, my panic attacks were just “stage fright” (I was in radio/music performance etc), my OCD a quirk of creativity and all that jazz! Right?

Wrong.

This is when I began to understand more fully the stigma associated to “mental health”. A somewhat wishy-washy term to people not familiar, or plain ignorant of the facts (as I myself was), as it’s often attributed to needing to just “chill out” or, “stop being so depressed” etc. At some point in life, many people will experience bouts of some kind of mental illness – after traumas, disappointments, or for some no seeming reason at all! But then, even the most healthy people can catch a cold.  And that’s the issue. Mental Health is a physical issue, that cannot be seen, and therefore for some is like trying to see oxygen.

My advice is simple on this matter; for brevity.

Acceptance & ownership

Firstly, accept it’s a physical thing, and take ownership and understand the physical things in the mind that are taking place. This helps separate you from the thought that you ARE your anxiety/depression etc. This is simply not the case.

If you catch a cold, you don’t say you ARE your cold. CBT helped me understand the mechanics of it, and have useful approaches, but for me (and we’re all different), I find mindfulness to have been the most helpful because it teaches to not identify as “being” depression/anxiety etc. This begins a process of dissociation of identifying as “being” depressed/anxious, and instead acceptance of what it is, how it functions, learning how it feels, and gradually gaining a level of understanding and feeling of when it’s occurring – and how it can shape/affect our feelings/emotions and therefore behaviours/reactions.

Experiment with techniques

Secondly, experiment with ways that can help you day to day – of course, seek professional help, but there’s also much that you can do independently. Breathing exercises (massively effective!), reminding yourself that the depression/anxiety doesn’t make you who you are, try things like mindfulness which teach us to detach from thought.

I also personally use meditations, guided or technological, hypnosis, even things like “EFT” (emotional freedom technique – or tapping), reading positive books, listening to uplifting music, and actively managing thought processes as and when I can.  Using mindfulness to compliment allows for being more in touch then, with which techniques are being more effective for you in the moment.

Is anxiety still there? Oh yes! But the more I practice these techniques (and you will find what works for you) and indeed, share them with others, the more aware I become of “anxiety”.

Reframing

Lastly; I have also reframed my anxiety, because without that fight or flight mechanism, our species would not likely still be here! So it’s important! It’s evolved in our species to protect us – and there are times that flood of adrenaline etc is critical. We certainly would not wish to be without it, but the chances a tiger is going to jump out and eat us are hopefully not too prevalent in your neighbourhood…

My experiences prompted me to begin @LiveYourNow & @Rmindrs on Twitter where I post daily mindfulness reminders, engage, and encourage others to talk – and hopefully create a few laughs too! (Laughter releases great neuro-chemicals!)

Be forgiving of yourself, understand you’re on a journey, and when you find things that help you, share them with others. The more we speak openly, the less stigma is attached, and the more others who may be suffering in silence may feel comforted and confident to speak out and seek assistance.  I have been witness to that now multiple times, and it’s truly a wonderful thing when we accompany each other, in compassion, on our healing journeys.

Thank you for reading! I hope it brings even just one person comfort/hope.

To your greatest life,

Richie – @LiveYourNow