How are you? Fine? If that’s your auto-reply or produces a lump in your throat as you swallow the truth, take heart. For a mom with multiple priorities (that’s kind of our definition), you may not even know how to answer that one simple question but it’s an important one. Sometimes a trained clinician can help you sort things out when “fine” just isn’t possible anymore. Start with these myths about therapy you should know.
5 Myths About Therapy You Should Know
We simply cannot fill the “cups” of those we love and care for if our own cup is empty. Be on the lookout for these five common myths about talk therapy and those who seek it, especially if they’re keeping you from getting help.
(Important: If you are feeling as though harming yourself or someone else is an option, don’t wait: Call 911 or get to an emergency room immediately. This article is no substitute for medical advice or treatment.)
Myth 1 – Therapy is for those with a mental illness.
Whether it’s the time of year, mom-exhaustion, or any of the myriad reasons you may not be feeling like yourself, if you’re not doing well it’s okay to hit pause. Therapy with a licensed professional may be worth considering. However, the stigma of therapy and the inevitable connection to the label of “mental illness” that follows often prevents us from seeking the help we need. That’s a huge mistake.
While those struggling on the continuum of clinical mental illness do, indeed, often benefit from individual or group therapy, spending some time “on the couch” can benefit anyone. Everyone. You, even.
The range of specialties for clinical counseling is vast – and that’s for good reason. As humans, we’ve got a lot going on – and some of it isn’t working for us. (That goes double for mom-humans.) The very definition of “disorder” doesn’t need to lead to a label. In fact, any pattern of thinking or behavior that prevents you from functioning normally is, by psychological definition, disordered.
Disordered thinking is actually quite common – especially when we’re stressed or failing to get enough sleep, exercise, or alone-time. If it goes on for more than a few months, it may be time to look into counseling before it begins to affect your long-term health and relationships. (As the saying goes, “if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”.)
If it’s a new or challenging situation that is creating the problem, a counselor can help untangle the elements of that situation and identify options you never considered – usually backed up by plenty of current science. No matter what you throw at them, they’ve probably seen it before. And sometimes we really can’t see the forest for the trees.
(Also, no one really lies down on a couch anymore.)
Myth 2 – You can’t afford it.
Not only is counseling usually covered by health insurance, but most communities also provide mental health centers where fees are based on a sliding income scale. Also, therapy doesn’t have to involve a long- term commitment. Short-term therapy over a period of 6 to 12 weeks can target the particular concern(s) you’re coping with and result in powerful results.
Myth 3 – You don’t have the time.
Not only does talk therapy not require months or years, but the frequency with which you use counseling services can also be entirely on your own terms. While you and your counselor might elect to meet weekly at first, you may decide at some point that a monthly check-in is all you need – or that your need for regular therapy has come to a successful end. Therapists typically schedule evening and sometimes weekend appointments and last for about 45 minutes. Today there are many options for the time-crunched including workplace counseling and online sessions that allow you to schedule without taking time away from work or arranging childcare.
Myth 4 – You don’t need therapy, you just need to “get over it.”
How’s that going, by the way? Before you became a mom, you were probably already wearing a number of hats. Daughter, employee, perhaps aunt or wife… Motherhood bumped you to a whole new level. If you’re juggling the needs of multiple loved ones, you need a reservoir of strength and peace from which to draw. That well dries up for all of us every once in a while. Having an external source to help fill it back up again – one who doesn’t judge, gossip or get tired of listening is a huge plus. Talk therapy with a trained counselor is designed to address your needs so that you can eventually get back to what fulfills you and feel better about things. And if what fulfills you doesn’t fulfill you anymore, they can help with that, too.
Myth 5 – You’ll have to pour out your heart to a total stranger. (No thanks.)
Therapy on TV and in the movies portrays an unfortunate caricature of the real thing. Clinical therapy does involve describing current and past events and important relationships, to be sure. Also, feelings may be involved. However, short-term therapy is less about a deep dive into your deepest self and more focused on goals and strategies to help you feel better and develop new choices for coping with stressors and challenges. Along the way, sure there might be a few deep conversations or a box of Kleenex – but you won’t have to talk about anything that makes you uncomfortable and your counselor is trained to evaluate and guide you with an open mind. You’ll get help asking the right questions and forging a healthy way forward that you simply may not be able to sort out on your own.
If you think this might be more than just “the blues,” open up to the idea of therapy as a kind of spa treatment for your mind and soul and ignore all the myths. You’re worth it.
(Important: If you are feeling as though harming yourself or someone else is an option, don’t wait: Call 911 or get to an emergency room immediately.)