I always thought that therapy was for those who experienced severe mental health challenges or episodes that inhibited someone from getting through the day to day lives. And so, I never thought it was something to ever be considered, at least not for myself. As many women can relate and especially women of colour, I to prided myself around getting through by reframing, ignoring and burying whatever challenges I did have.
Well, guess what, it caught up...
In the last few years life really shifted and my capacity to handle challenges also shifted. I dealt with the loss of my grandmother, the breakdown of key relationships in my life, and the ending of a long tumultuous relationship. For the first time ever I felt I couldn’t catch my breath.
In that time I began considering therapy and realized the need for a therapist. Not because I couldn’t get through my day or because I didn’t feel hopeful but because I realized I had things I needed to work through.
Often you hear “all you need is support” which is great and I had plenty. I had healthy supportive networks, a large family, close siblings, great circle of friends but even that couldn’t replace what a therapy session could facilitate.
So yes, my thoughts and ideas around therapy have evolved here's what I’ve learned.
You got to go deep or go home
I look at it from the idea that, if you truly want to become your best self you first have to get very clear about the baggage that is holding you back from becoming who you want to be in this world.
Whether it be the insecurities, habits, lies or coverups, understanding the patterns that are not conducive to you achieving you desires is the first step to change. Once you understand the basis of your thoughts, habits, behaviours, then you can figure out what you have to do to counter them.
You got to get over the shame, stigma, and misconceptions
Dr. Brene Brown author and speaker who has done extensive research on Shame, said it best. “Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.”
I think about the community I come from as an Afro Caribbean woman. I know in my community, and many other racialized communities, therapy is looked down upon or simply misunderstood. Therapy has been been stigmatized and stereotyped for the “mad” the “sick”, “the weak”. So with that comes a lot of shame to even seek a therapist.
When I was choosing a therapist I first went to one lady about my relationship and felt uncomfortable about it because the dynamic was not natural for me, I was closed off, I felt judged I just came through the door with so many preconceived thoughts about what this was going to be like. This made it hard for me to really open up.
I also learned that there are ways to help persons break the ice or make their first experience with a therapist a little more comfortable. Nothing replaces building a trustful relationship with your therapist. However, upon reflection of my first experience I decided I needed to select a therapist that was able to provide a safer space where I felt I could be vulnerable and who had the cultural background and familiarity as me. I searched out a therapist who was a woman of African descent and had faith-based background. Going into my first meeting with her felt very different and gave me a level of comfort before we even exchanged words. I felt there was a big hurdle jumped the minute I was greeted by her because she already understood the Black woman’s experience. It put me at ease.
I now look at it similar to a gym membership don’t only go when you need it but think about how you can incorporate into your life for the long term. I say this knowing and understanding access to therapy is a challenge especially for low-income families, single mothers, students, those with precarious status, etc,. More and more innovative solutions are challenging the traditional therapy model and hopefully this continues in the future.
Check out BetterHelp, one of the organizations leveraging tech to allow people across Canada to access therapists and counselling sessions.