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The case for seeing a therapist

The case for seeing a therapist

“I have friends to vent to, why would I see a therapist?” That’s the response I often hear when someone close to me feels reluctant to seek the advice of a professional. While a strong support network is always a good thing, there are plenty of compelling reasons to go the route of therapy. But here’s why we think therapy is worth a shot (for everyone!).

Know thyself
No one knows us better than we know ourselves, but how well do you know yourself, really? It can be easy to shield yourself from a challenging or painful experience with coping mechanisms, but if you don’t go deeper (and with someone who is trained to do so), then you might unknowingly be susceptible to unhealthy patterns of behavior.

For me, it took until I was 18-years-old (when I first saw a therapist) to realize that having an alcoholic family member significantly affected the way I related to people and the world around me. It might sound obvious, but when you’re used to sweeping everything under the rug, then the illusion of “everything is fine” replaces reality. Through speaking with a counselor, I learned that being a high-performer in school was one way I, for my own self-care, escaped the issues at home. I also realized that I had largely avoided opening up to my friends because I was worried about burdening them with my problems. In this way, being vulnerable with myself through therapy allowed me to seek healthier and more meaningful relationships. Win-win.

Prioritize your mental health
When U.S. soccer star Landon Donovan went on a sabbatical in 2013, the soccer community was initially stunned. Why step away from the game at the height of your career? As Donovan explained, “It’s a little peculiar to me, that whole idea, that if someone’s physically hurt, we’re OK with letting them take the time they need to come back, but if someone’s in a difficult time mentally, we’re not OK with letting them take the time they need to come back.”

The stigma that still persists around mental health is real, and it shapes people’s perceptions and priorities. As the Center for Disease Control & Prevention reported, only 25% of people with a psychological condition feel supported. And whether or not you experience a mental illness or just want someone to talk to, these societal biases can distort your own idea of therapy. But the only way to break stigmas is to be part of that change. It’s okay to not be okay, and being brave enough to acknowledge that gives others tacit permission to do the same.

Physical and financial benefits
Therapy is certainly good for mind and soul, but did you know that it can improve bodily functions and financial bottom lines as well? If you’re recovering from a trauma, experiencing heightened stress, or even feeling general malcontent, there’s a decent chance that physical symptoms will manifest from these emotions. Some side effects that may occur include headaches, ulcers, and a decreased libido. As psychologist Marian Margulies noted, “There have been some studies that show that many physical ailments are ameliorated when someone engages in therapy.”

On the money end of things, researchers at the University of Michigan found that 50% of employees with depression experience short-term disability, with businesses losing $44 billion every year due to lost productivity. Perhaps even more revealing: The financial cost of depression for companies is “as great or greater than the cost of many other common medical conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, or back problems.” And when businesses suffer, it can negatively impact the economy, which ultimately hurts workers and their job prospects.

So while it may feel awkward or unnecessary to go to therapy, remember that there are numerous upsides to going to counseling. And who knows? Soon enough you might be convincing your skeptical friends to do the same!