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Therapy Questions, Myths, and Misconceptions Pt 4

Updated: Mar 25, 2022

"Therapy is Only for Major Life Events"

This series will handle misunderstandings and common questions we as therapists encounter from our clients and people in general. Therapy can be scary, but the hope of this series is to remove some of the fear, stigma, and confusion that often accompanies the therapy journey.

Often clients express a sense of guilt for making an appointment because there is nothing specifically “wrong.” They feel depressed or anxious, but they don’t have a major life event or trauma to point at to explain it. Below, I’ll deconstruct this belief.

Guilt Paralysis and the Struggle Olympics

“It’s not bad enough for me to take action,” or “Other people have it so much worse,” is a very common thing for therapists to hear. As I tell my clients, there is no such thing as the Struggle Olympics. Everyone has pain, and everyone is entitled to their emotions and reactions to them.

When we engage in the Struggle Olympics, we learn to ignore our own issues and cues instead of honoring them. Furthermore, our self-denial does not actually help others or address our feelings. It’s important to take care of ourselves, no matter our perception of the hurt.

Cumulation of Stressors

While it’s true that perhaps individuals aren’t going through one specific event, it is possible to experience a mental health equivalent of “death by a thousand cuts.” Clients often come to their first appointments confused about why they are feeling down or wanting therapy.

However, once they begin to explain their life situations it’s easy to see from a bigger picture view how the little things stack up and affect us in large ways. Often, we cannot see the forest for the trees.

Normalization of Abnormal Situations

In addition to stressors, clients can have been dealing with their mental illnesses or adverse situations for so long they have effectively stopped noticing them. Our brains and bodies are made to adapt; we can easily stop noticing the ways we are compensating over time.

However, this does not lessen the amount of time and energy we are putting into adapting. In fact, the more we normalize the abnormal, the more tiring it can get. It’s important to get outside opinions and views to assess if what we are dealing with, or how we are coping, is healthy and helpful.

It’s important to remember therapy is a helpful tool no matter the situation. We don’t have to “earn” help. Reaching out can be the first step towards feeling better and even having better coping mechanisms for the next major life event.

I am a counselor at Houston Therapy. I work with adolescents and adults looking for a warm, non-judgmental space to explore their struggles and experiences. I have worked with a broad range of clients, but I have a strong background with those seeking to understand their anxiety, depression, trauma, and relationship issues. My approach is trauma-informed and LGBTQ friendly.

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