So you've been struggling with anxiety for a while but you just try to brush it away. Everyone knows you are a strong woman, so you know you will get through this. However, some days, you don't know if you can handle everything that's going on- the constant worry, the heart palpitations, the tightness in your shoulders, the thoughts that just won't stop. Will you be okay? You know one or two friends who have gone to therapy, but you think therapy is for weak people or rich people.
You cannot separate your physical health and your mental health. They work hand in hand.
Trust me, I've heard it all before. I grew up in a culture where there was actually no such thing as therapy and mental health was not discussed when I was a child. We just thought we should pray it away. But as I got older, I realized that your mental health is just as important as your physical health. You see, your mind and your body are connected. That's why if you're feeling sad you might find yourself eating too much or sometimes not eating enough. Or if you're feeling super anxious, you might feel your heart beating faster. You can't ignore one without negatively affecting the other. Think of it this way, if you broke your arm, would you just pray that your bones would heal themselves? I guess not. You would pray as you were on your way to the doctor.
How to select a therapist
The first step is to find a therapist who you feel will understand you. I always suggest you do a phone consultation to see if you even like the therapist before actually taking a trip to his or her office. You do not want to waste your time with a therapist who is not a good fit for you. Decide what gender you want your therapist to be, what race and what background you're comfortable with. Some people prefer a therapist who looks like them, and others don't really mind if their therapist looks different. Either way, it's just okay. Some will choose a therapist of their same religious background and others don't really mind about the therapist's beliefs. Also, do you want a therapist that practices online therapy or counseling as an option in case you have to be away on business? These are all important things to think about.
How can a therapist help you?
So after deciding what type of therapist you want and talking with him or her over the phone to decide if both of you will be a good fit, it's now time to think about what you want help with.
1) Set clear goals for your therapy sessions.
For a therapist to help you, he or she cannot read your mind. You should have clear goals. I always ask my clients, "When therapy is over in say 6 months, how will your life be different?" This gives me a clear idea of your goals and expectations. Once you pick your goals, then I can write out a treatment plan- a summary of 2 or 3 goals you want to accomplish and how we are going to get you there. So you interview potential therapists, talk to them on the phone to see if you like them, then decide with them what you want to achieve while in therapy.
2) Understand that therapists are neutral.
Therapists are neutral parties who do not have any emotional investment in you. Well of course my wish for all my clients is that they reach their goals and thrive, but because I'm not your friend, I can view your situation with great clarity. This is also why I hand select every client before I work with them. I only make sure I take you on if I can actually get you results. If I think I can't get you results, I'll refer you to someone who I think might be a better fit for you. No harm. No foul. I'm pretty straightforward with my process.
3) Therapists look at you from the outside in.
Because I am not your friend or family member, I can give you a bird's eye view of things. When you are in the eye of the storm, you can't see clearly- all you notice is harsh winds and debris flowing around. My goal is to help you look at obstacles and barriers that have led you to where you are today. When you are so overwhelmed by all the daily hustle and bustle, you miss the small details. It's my job to catch those details and make you aware of them.
4) Therapists help you get in tune with emotions you've stuffed down.
So most of us don't grow up talking about feelings and thinking about how the world has affected us. We just grow up in auto pilot and try to survive. I work from a cognitive behavioral stand point. What this means is I help you figure out how your thoughts, feelings and behaviors are linked. If you change one, you automatically change the other two. I help you figure out how issues from your past and issues in your present make you feel, so you can address them, validate yourself and learn to have more compassion for yourself. Self compassion opens so many doors and unlocks your hidden potential.
5) Therapists help you uncover patterns that have kept you stuck.
So we are all products of our environment. So yes you are different from your family of origin, but we learn different things from them. Some people say to me-my mom was very anxious, so I became an anxious woman. And of course, some of our behavior is learned, so I help you figure out why you do certain things the way you do, so you can continue to hold on to what works and get rid of what isn't working well for you. So if you grew up on a harsh environment, anger probably served you well, because it kept you safe. But once you are out of the environment, you don't have need for that level of anger anymore. And my job is to not only see you, but help you figure out how to change what needs changing.
So there you have it. These are some of the ways that a counselor or therapist can help you. If you are a woman in the Murrieta/Temecula area who struggles with anxiety and you are ready to lift your self esteem and do the work, click here to schedule a 15 minute phone consultation so we can move you from anxious and overwhelmed to calm and in control. I also provide online counseling sessions for women who live in other parts of California.