Let’s get real. The world as it is at the moment, can be overwhelming, with change occurring at a rapid pace. Nothing seems certain. A pandemic, wars, violence in the streets and political upheaval scream from the headlines and broadcast from radios and televisions. It’s enough to make the most seemingly emotionally balanced person want to retreat to their blanket fort. Even ‘in the before times,’ depression, anxiety and addiction were life altering realities in the lives of many, and the current state of affairs can re-trigger trauma.
Taking time off for an extended meditation retreat until the world settles down is not in the cards for most people. We need to regulate our emotions sufficiently to continue functioning in daily life, including jobs, caring for our families, tending to our own health, walking the dog, doing the laundry. Emotional dysregulation can be described as an inability to manage feelings as they arise. Think of it as emotional hijacking where a feeling such as anger swoops by, scoops you up and runs off with you. The National Institute of Mental Health attests that nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness (51.5 million in 2019). Categorized by severity, you, or anyone you know may experience mental health challenges.
The idea of reaching out for support from a trained and experienced therapist is outside the comfort zones for some since they have come to buy into the stigma attached to mental health issues. Why do we cast aspersions on ourselves for experiencing depression, anxiety, loneliness, trauma, OCD, or brain disorders when we wouldn’t judge a broken ankle or appendicitis? Some see the former as weakness and the latter as happenstance. Some well-known celebrities such as Michael Phelps, Lady Gaga and Simone Biles are outspoken advocates for bringing the topic out of the closet and into the light of day.
One metric for deciding if now is the time to seek support, is whether the way you are living is enhancing or limiting your quality of life. You need not wait until reaching a crisis point to pick up the phone. Don’t wait until life becomes unmanageable. Be proactive.
How do you find someone who is the right fit for you? First, ask yourself what would best serve your needs. Are you looking for solutions to longstanding issues that may have stemmed from abuse and trauma? Are you seeking relationship guidance? Do you want to better manage your time, your stress, and/or your anger? Do you want to stop drinking, smoking, or using drugs? There are as many practicing psychotherapists with various levels of experience, education, and approaches as there are needs for them to help clients meet. Don’t settle for less than what you want. A good therapist will create a safe environment for you to bring all of who you are to the sessions. Remember as well that the more invested you are in your healing and recovery process, the more you will glean from it.
Cultural competence is an important aspect of therapy. A therapist who is knowledgeable about the ways in which religion, culture, gender identity, sexual orientation, and physical ability impact mental health is more likely to be able to serve your needs.
The first step is to contact your health insurance company to find out what your mental health benefits are and what professionals are in network in your area–especially if you are unable to pay out of pocket. During the pandemic, many therapists are offering telehealth sessions. Note that many therapists are booked up and have waiting lists, which is all the more reason to act soon.
Check with family and friends to ask for recommendations. People do business with those they know, like and trust. That is especially true when seeking a therapist. Psychology Today, Theravive and Good therapy have vetted lists of therapists.
Imagine yourself a year from now, being a healthier and more balanced you.