Why Anyone Can Benefit From Therapy

Like many people, I have a love/hate relationship with therapy. This space has provided so many good, beautiful moments for me over the years, and even when I learn something that isn’t always so positive about myself, I’m grateful for the space that’s been created to process and feel. But, as someone who has seen a number of therapists over the past decade, it can also be extremely frustrating to try and find that space, or create it for yourself. In my opinion the benefits usually outweigh the cost, but the point I want to make today is that anyone – yes, anyone – can benefit from therapy. Here’s why.

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Bringing My Whole Self to Therapy

A few months ago, a big part of my mental health routine was thrown off pretty heavily when I had to abruptly stop seeing my therapist. Since this happened more for administrative reasons than incompatibility, I felt a little disappointed that we couldn’t continue with the progress I felt I was making in the almost year I’d been seeing this therapist. But in the past few months, I’ve been able to connect with a new therapist and start working toward goals of mental wellness and healthiness. It’s been interesting adapting to this new situation, and it’s reminded me of a few things about adapting to changes when you see a new therapist.

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Making Adjustments and Moving Forward

Something I’ve come to expect in life is that unexpected things happen all the time. That’s not a lead-in to say that anything major recently happened, but the most recent unexpected thing is that I have to find a new therapist (shoutout to insurance for ruining a good thing yet again). This isn’t anything new – in fact, this past 11 months is the most success I’ve had with a therapist in the 10 years I’ve been exploring therapy – but it’s yet another adjustment to make on my mental health journey. Here’s how I’m feeling at the moment.

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My Biggest Misconception About Therapy

I still remember the first time I went to a therapy session. I was 17 years old, and I saw my therapist at a family services center near my house. I was confused during most of our session so while I was trying to answer her questions honestly, I didn’t also know what she was getting at. I saw this therapist for a few months, and then I didn’t give it any thought until a few years later. But in the ten years since that day, there is so much I’ve learned about therapy: it’s goal, it’s purpose, how it works for individuals, etc. But I had one huge misconception that I didn’t shake off until recently, and I want to share it today in the hope that it can help anyone who thinks therapy might be worth exploring.

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Q&A With Dr. Laura Dabney

This week we’re talking with a mental health PRO! Dr. Laura F. Dabny, M.D. is a psychiatrist who has run her own psychotherapy practice in Virginia Beach for nearly 20 years. She was kind enough to answer some of my questions about mental health and its place in today’s society.

What is a popular misconception about seeing a psychiatrist?
That we are judgmental, critical or going to tell a patient what to do. Instead, we are impartial, supportive and help you find the best solution for your problems.

When should someone consider getting help for their mental health issues?
I define that by when your problem, however “big” or “small,” negatively impacts your relationships or job performance, it’s time to get help.

How, especially in the beginning, can a person learn to trust a professional with their mental health? 
By reading my last answer a few times! Just kidding. There’s nothing wrong with calling and asking to speak to the mental health person before making the appointment.
Reputable and trustworthy professionals will be glad to do this. It may help to see if you “click” over the phone before going in. I also strongly recommend that if you get a bad vibe for any reason in the first appointment, don’t make a follow-up appointment. An initial evaluation is a way to test your connection with the therapist. It doesn’t commit you in any way.

What advice would you give to someone who is looking to get help for their mental health?
Break the concept of “getting help” into bite-size chunks. You don’t have to throw yourself into months of therapy. Start first by simply checking out some websites or some blogs on mental health. Then maybe just call and talk to the receptionist about the practice. These casual first steps might help get you over the nervousness about making an appointment.

What is the best way to address possible stigmas of mental health?
Luckily this seems to be improving. I think reading books by accomplished people with mental illness such as Kay Jamison’s book (Unquiet Mind) helps balance the media’s skewed perception that people with mental illness are untreatable or misfits.

Anything you’d like to add?
Although I’m an M. D., I do believe in using psychotherapy to help ween people off psychotropic medications. Big Pharma really pushed these medications as miracle drugs in the ’90s when I was in training. While they can be helpful, there are many people that can benefit from therapy or short-term use of medication, and therefore don’t need the medications for life. It’s important to get a second opinion if someone recommends medication without giving a list of pros and cons of the different types of therapy and medication usage.