If you had agonising toothache, you’d hotfoot it straight to the dentist, right? Or course you would. Similarly, deciding to see a professional to help with any negative thoughts, overwhelming feelings or problematic behaviours that you’re experiencing, makes total sense too. Mental wellbeing is a crucial part of being healthy so spotting the signs when you might need some support is one of the kindest things you can do for yourself.
Today, we hear about the benefits of therapy from presenter and trained counsellor Anna Williamson. Anna is an ambassador of the mental health charity Mind, and author of anxiety manual, Breaking Mad.
How can therapy or counselling help?
Anna says that talking therapies are proven to be hugely effective at treating mental health issues. “When we keep worries and stress in, or have negative thoughts ruminating around our head, getting them out by talking to a trained therapist can help to release tension and angst,” she explains.
Will I know if I need it?
Experiencing sadness, grief, stress and conflict is all part of the ups and downs of life, but if your feelings are causing you problems, you don’t need to suffer alone. “If you are struggling or finding day to day things tough, therapy could be a really helpful tool. If you consistently feel unhappy, down, anxious, or find yourself worrying often and lacking in energy - a counselling session could be very useful to make sense of any triggers that might be causing these feelings,” advises Anna.
What exactly happens in therapy/counselling?
Therapy is so much more than just laying on a couch and unpicking your childhood. “It’s an opportunity for you to have space and be able to think clearly and talk confidentially to a trained therapist,” says Anna. “They may ask you questions to better understand the issues, and you’ll be given time to think about responses and suggest areas you might like to address. A typical counselling session lasts for one hour.”
How will I know if I’m making progress?
Initially it may feel uncomfortable discussing your thoughts and feelings and it’s important to remember that measuring your progress in the sessions isn’t an exact science. A shift in thinking or seeing improved symptoms, are signs that therapy is working, however. “People often report feeling ‘lighter’ after a counselling session and hopefully a little more unburdened than perhaps they were when they went in. It is worth monitoring how you are feeling after and in-between counselling sessions, and feeding back your thoughts and feelings to your therapist. If you’re starting to make positive changes and feeling better about your original concerns, progress is being made,” says Anna.
What’s the biggest myth about therapy?
Misconceptions about therapy only add to the stigma of mental health and may prevent someone from getting help, if they need it. Anna believes that one of these major myths is that therapy is a sign of weakness. “In actual fact, having therapy or counselling is a huge sign of bravery and taking responsibility for one’s own mental health. So many people find counselling and therapy beneficial and it’s something that has transformed my life both professionally and personally,” she says.