10 Benefits of Therapy You Won’t Believe – Part 1
Did you know that the benefits of therapy are for everyone? Many people think the only reason to see a therapist is that they are mentally unbalanced. The truth is you don’t have to be having a mental health crisis to benefit from seeing a therapist. Talk Therapy (also called psychotherapy) helps you develop coping skills, improve thought patterns, and even helps with various health conditions. The sad truth is that many of us grew up with the idea that feelings are private and we should not talk about them. Talking about feelings gives the impression that you’re weak.
Maybe as a child, you heard expressions like, “you made your bed, now you can lie in it,” or “pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get over it?” Even if those phrases were not directed at you, you might have developed anxiety around talking about your feelings, especially mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. You may believe that there’s nothing you can do to help when you have difficult times. Life will be better if you stuff down your negative feelings and move forward. But not dealing with challenging situations or feelings is one of the very worst things you can do for your mental health.
Individual therapy can help with so many everyday stressors, big and small. A good therapist can make all the difference in the world when it comes to learning about yourself and others and how to work through the tough stuff in life instead of ignoring it and hoping it will just go away. Talk about the ultimate self-care! Here are five therapy benefits. You can see the other five in Part 2. These are from my perspective, after seeing a therapist for the past five years.
1 – Seeing A Therapist Will Teach You New Things About yourself
I think everyone in the world could use a little bit more positive self-reflection. Seeing a therapist provides exactly that. Through therapy, I have learned that I am a very big feeler. When I feel things, I feel them deeply. I had no idea that people’s feelings come with varying degrees of depth. Situations that others can and do breeze right through can stop me in my tracks and keep me from moving forward. Until I deal with the feelings, that is.
Unfortunately, I don’t like feelings. I prefer to suppress them. I know I’m not alone in this. Some of this belief stems from the era in which I was raised. Many people around my age (50 this year) learned to keep their feelings private. We know it’s better to put on a happy face for those around us. Somehow, I concluded that when I share my feelings, they are a burden to someone else. Bottling up those big feelings over the years has caused me to be a bit of a powder keg, ready to blow at the slightest spark. In my response to most situations where I feel something big, I tend to default to an angry response.
Embarrassed? I react angrily
Sad? I cry angry tears
Frightened? I’m downright mad
The Fight Response
Here’s a great example of my angry response to fear. I do not like to be startled. Don’t get me wrong. I love watching someone else get surprised as much as the next guy. But when it’s happening to me, not so much. Just ask my husband. One day we were taking a walk when we saw a little metal plate on the sidewalk. It said “caution” on it. I have no idea what the caution plate was there for, but it honestly doesn’t matter. In a show of good humor, poor Dan read the plate out loud with a panicked voice, “CAUTION!” and went to steer me away from stepping on it. He was having a good time on our walk and was having some fun with me as if the plate itself was a real and present danger.
Unfortunately for him, the combined tone of voice and quick grab for me startled me. I got that terrible feeling in my stomach that feels like a plunger, and before I had time to think, I hauled off and punched him. Hard. Not because I am a violent person, but more because I was startled. When I have a rush of a fast feeling, I react with anger. We have laughed about this many times since, and thank goodness he’s forgiven me for hitting him.
Are You A Fighter?
Learning about why I had such an angry reaction to a moment like this was my introduction to the fight or flight response. Here’s what happens: When your brain senses danger, real or perceived, it causes the release of a bunch of hormones which create a reaction. Some people react by freezing, some by fleeing the situation, and some by fighting. I’m a fighter. When I encounter a problem, my response is to fight. I have no flight in me and I don’t freeze long enough to process what’s happening. I slam into it that situation head-on to bulldoze through it. You can see how an everyday office quarrel or my teenager talking back to me can quickly escalate when I have a fight response.
Only by understanding why I react this way have I begun to change my response slowly and methodically to something more appropriate and manageable. I’m far from perfect, and I will likely always have a fight response, but my life is changing through awareness and effort, one perceived threat at a time. The Cleveland Clinic has an excellent article explaining the fight or flight response and how it affects our mind and body. It’s worth a read. How about you? Do you freeze, fight, or flee?
2 – Seeing A Therapist Will Teach You Healthier Ways To Communicate
If you know me, you know that I am a talker! I will easily talk your ear off, telling you just about anything and everything. Because talking is comfortable for me, I find that I often use chatter to help maneuver situations from the good to the not-so-good. If I’m feeling happy, I talk. When I’m feeling sad, I talk. If I’m feeling uncomfortable, I talk. Some would say I’m a person who “loves to hear herself talk.” I suppose there’s some truth to that, although it doesn’t feel very flattering. From schoolteachers to supervisors, over the years, I’ve been told to curb my chatting.
Because I’ve been labeled a talker and teased (sometimes mercilessly), I have begun to own this trait as a negative. I’ve worked through some of my feelings surrounding this self-label. Yes. I am a talker, and yes, sometimes I do talk too much. But I’ve also learned that some people love me for this trait. I mean, there’s rarely an awkward silence when I’m around!
Although I have worked hard to accept my chatty nature as a good thing, I have also learned that there are times that talking so much may not always be the best way to communicate. Sometimes it’s more important to keep my thoughts inside and listen to what others have to say. I’ve also learned to read the cues, my own and others, that tell me it’s time to stop talking. When I’m feeling awkward or nervous, I’ve learned that it’s okay to get curious and ask some questions instead of feeling like I need to talk myself through those awkward moments.
It’s not my job to solve the problems of the world through my chatting. It’s okay to have quiet times and allow others to fill that space. I have been able to gain these insights through many hours of great therapy and lots of hard work between appointments. Before therapy, it was much easier to beat myself up and think poorly of my chatting gift rather than to embrace it and learn when and how to use it.
What is the gift in your life that you could learn to use in a healthier way?
Related: 5 Ways Fear-Based Thinking Holds You Back from Becoming a Better Photographer (or anything, really)
3 – Seeing a Therapist Will Change Your Perspective Of Other People
As you begin to learn about yourself through therapy, you will also learn about other people. Through therapy, you will learn how other people make decisions and why those people experience different emotions than yours. One of the most amazing things I’ve benefitted from in my weekly therapy appointments is seeing things from other people’s perspectives.
I have spent years making assumptions about others because of my insecurities. It’s a rat race inside my head, and I spend a whole lot of time assuming reasons for other people’s behaviors. My therapist can usually give me a different view of a situation. Because I trust her and know she has my best interest at heart, I can listen and try to understand another person’s perspective. It turns out others have insecurities of their own that cause unhealthy behaviors. That is not my work, but theirs. None of us is perfect, and we all bear our responsibilities in relationships with one another. Learning that I don’t have to get it right every time and that those around me are also dealing with troubles of their own has allowed me to have more grace for all of us.
How do you see your role in conflict with others, and how do you cope?
Another great read: Seven Photos To Inspire You When You Need a Spirit Boost
4 – Seeing a Therapist Enables You to Pass on Healthy Habits to the Next Generation
When you learn new and healthy ways to deal with your relationships and life situations, you automatically begin teaching your children and grandchildren new and healthy ways to deal with their stuff. They are always watching and learning, even when they don’t know it.
I had wonderful parents who did a great job raising me with the tools they had in their toolbelt from their upbringing. I then parented my kids with my toolbelt, filled with tools handed down from my folks, some discarded, some handed down, refined for their own us
One of the tools that I am refining is that of processing feelings through therapy. I didn’t learn how to work through my feelings as a child and I didn’t do a very good job of teaching my kids how to do it, either. I am now learning how to do it and am learning how to have healthier responses to my feelings in general. As I learn new and healthier habits, so do my loved ones. Sharpening my existing tools and adding a few new ones to my belt sets a great example for my grown kids. It’s never too late to help my grown kids sharpen their tools and begin using new ones as well.
When you get to my age with grown kids, you start to realize that parenting is never really over. Neither are relationships with your adult kids. As long as I am on this earth, I will continue to have the best relationships I can with them. I hope that when they see me working hard at it, they will want to work just as hard.
5 – Seeing a Therapist Will Improve Your Physical Health
We’ve talked about how seeing a therapist can make a substantial difference in your mental health. One of the surprising benefits of therapy is an improvement in your physical health as well. You may almost immediately notice better sleep habits and lowered stress levels. Gone are my long, restless nights with my mind circling over and over the same problem. I can now work through what’s happening enough that I can get a good night’s sleep and arise with a new outlook the next morning. Better sleep and less stress are proven to reduce blood pressure and decrease your heart attack or stroke risk. Many therapy patients experience a reduction in stress-induced illnesses such as migraine headaches, cold sores, and digestive ailments.
I have had a long-standing issue with cold sores. I used to take medication to prevent them because they were so common for me. Without meds I would get 8-10 per year. I am happy to say that I no longer take preventative medication, and I only get an occasional cold sore if I’m out in the sun and wind without lip protection. Honestly, I believe that much of this improvement is due to my healthier ability to handle stress. This TIME article does a great job of breaking down the science behind the connection between mental and physical health.
Another great read: 10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Me
Is Seeing a Therapist For You?
There’s no doubt that therapy is a fantastic tool to help you feel mentally and physically better in your everyday life. If you’re ready to leap, you can find a therapist in your area at the Psychology Today website or ask your doctor. She can not only provide medical advice, but she can also provide additional information about mental health services available for you. Since the onset of Covid in 2020, online therapy is becoming more common. You can find treatment online for mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, or eating disorders, to name a few. You can also find therapists specializing in couples therapy or family therapy if you’re struggling with a loved one.
If your first visit doesn’t fix all of your problems, don’t be alarmed. It takes time and effort to see long-term results. However, if you’re not feeling comfortable or connected with your new therapist after a few visits, don’t be afraid to try a new one. You must be comfortable with your therapist to reap the best results.
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