Even though mental health has been starting to enter mainstream conversations these days, there is one area I think needs more attention: therapy. I’ll be the first one in the room to admit that I have a therapist I see regularly, but a lot of us out there I know still struggle with the idea of seeing a therapist. It can be overwhelming to try to push aside our preconceived notions of therapy and find a therapist - especially when we are struggling with mental health concerns or trauma in our lives.
That is why for our last episode on mental health, I brought Ida Mae Devers, co-owner of Philly Family Life Counseling, on The Stress Less Show to share her thoughts on finding the right therapy for you so you can find your own happiness. As a survivor of domestic violence, Ida found herself thrust straight into therapy when a suicide attempt landed her in the hospital.
“The only way that they were going to let me go home is if I promised that I would go into therapy.”
Years later after leaving her abusive husband and continuing to go to therapy, Ida now co-owns a therapy practice of her own with her current supportive husband. In that time, she has learned a lot about finding a therapist. Most importantly, she stresses that finding a therapist is not something to rush.
“When you're looking for a therapist, you need to interview those therapists. You need to feel a connection, you need to feel comfortable.”
Through her story and experience at Philly Family Life Counseling, Ida has a couple of tips she shared with me this week for anyone who is struggling with the idea of going to therapy and managing their mental health.
Tip #1: Do not be afraid of therapy
For some of us, “therapy” is a scary word. While society’s perception of therapy has improved in recent years, a lot of us feel intimidated by the idea of seeking help for our mental health. We may feel like we shouldn’t need therapy, but Ida stresses that we should not be afraid of therapy and be open to getting the help we need.
“Don't listen to old stigma that you're crazy if you're going to a therapist because you're not. You're absolutely not. You're trying to find somebody who is professionally trained in various areas of mental health who can help you to get over [things] and to learn about yourself.”
A therapist is there to help support us in ways that we can’t support ourselves. Often, the reason we can find ourselves stuck in life is that we keep looking at ourselves in the same negative ways. Our brains are stuck in destructive thought patterns and we may not even realize it. A therapist is able to help us identify these patterns so that we can start to make real changes in the way we approach our lives.
“If you're willing and you want to change anything in your life, it's such a positive experience to find the right therapist that can help guide you to where you need to go.”
Tip #2: Find something that relaxes you
While seeking help in managing our mental health is necessary for creating a happier life, the process isn’t always easy. It takes time to find the right therapy and we might even feel anxious about exploring our minds with another person. That’s why Ida also recommends that we look for activities that we can do to relax as we are going through this process.
“I've found that depending on where I am in my own head, walking out under the sky or walking in the city even can relieve stress.”
Taking a walk in nature or in the city, drawing, journaling - all of these activities allow us to enter a calming state of flow. This sense of peace can make all the difference in our mental health journey by giving us the mental space to process our emotions as they come to us in healthy ways.