You know how important it is to look after your physical health. For example, if you break an arm, you’ll probably go to the doctor right away. But what about mental health? Oftentimes, individuals neglect their mental health for various reasons. For one, it may not be as obvious that something is wrong because you can’t see it. Even more so, the stigma that exists regarding mental health treatment hinders many from seeking professional support.
Some may think that going in for counseling/psychotherapy means that something is terribly wrong with them. However, the truth is that everybody experiences stress, shame, and hardships in life. When life’s stressors become overwhelming, seeking professional help can be one of the best decisions you’ll make for yourself and those around you.
Individual counseling is a collaborative process where the client and therapist team-up to create a plan of action. This can consist of skills to learn and practice (e.g. mindfulness, journaling, thought-stopping, etc.) and goals (e.g. improving relationships, reducing consumption alcohol, building confidence, etc.) to achieve. If you aren’t sure what your goal is, but you just don’t feel your best, that is completely ok, too. The therapist aims to understand your story, your feelings, and your perspective to best help you make the right decisions for yourself moving forward. If you feel anxious, depressed, lonely, or any other array of emotions, coming to therapy is a way to sort out why you are experiencing such difficulty so that you can improve it.
Sometimes, individual counseling is less about goals and more about having a safe place to voice your concerns and get support. It can be helpful to let your therapist know whatever it is that you are looking to gain from your sessions so that they can best meet your needs.
As you learn more about yourself in therapy, you will likely get better at creating healthy boundaries, making smart decisions for yourself, and cultivating a sense of self-respect. Via collaboration with a professional, you will likely find yourself empowered as you’ll see that you are the creator of your reality. You are responsible, that is, you are able to respond constructively to events in your life.
In summary, your therapist is there to empower you to see yourself more clearly, to give some guidance where needed, and to support you on your personal growth journey.
Keeping feelings inside will often make things much worse. One of the curative factors of individual counseling is called catharsis, otherwise known as an emotional release. Having a neutral person, who doesn’t know you outside of session, listen to you, understand you, and give you feedback where necessary can have a tremendous healing effect. To express your most shameful actions and feelings to someone who is trained to understand them is life-giving. As they say, shame can only live in the darkness. When expressed aloud, shame cannot survive.
When you keep feelings in, it creates such shame. Shame says, “I am bad”. You may find yourself wondering if people truly like you for who you are or if you are lovable. These questions are often at the root of mental health issues and unfortunately common. Because we are such social creatures, our relationships matter extensively to us. Feeling unloved, or disliked, can be hugely detrimental to our overall well-being, so it’s vital to sort this out. Individual counseling will challenge you to see yourself from differing perspectives so that you can decide what kind of person you want to be. By being honest about uncomfortable feelings in therapy, as you feel ready, your negative view of yourself can begin to shift.