when to see a therapist.

The Best Time To Start Therapy & Other Therapy Myths

There are a lot of myths out there when it comes to therapy. Even if you’re not new to therapy, it can still be tough to decide if now is the right time to go back to therapy or to seek counseling for the first time. Well, spoiler alert, or TL; DR, whatever the kids are saying these days if you’re asking, ‘When is the right time to see a therapist?’ The answer is always sooner rather than later. We can’t give an exact answer of course, because everyone is different. But we think it’s safe to say that if you’re asking the question about when to go to therapy, being proactive about your mental health is always better than being reactive. The myth that therapy is only for those who are mentally unhealthy or for someone experiencing a big life crisis, is one of the worst that we’re here to bust today.

We’ll cover a few other therapy myths, too. We’ll talk about the myths that therapy is only for the weak, that talking to a good friend or family is just as good, that if you start therapy, you’ll have to go forever, and that all therapists do is listen. There are so many misconceptions about therapy that we could probably write a whole book. But the reality is that therapy is just a form of self-care. Although it absolutely can be life-changing, there doesn’t need to be a grand life event or giant crisis to trigger your need for therapy. It can just be Tuesday or even Wednesday, or you could get real wild and go on Thursday!

Rethinking Therapy: Beyond Crisis Management to Everyday Wellness

We’ve talked about the History of Mental Health, the stigmas that have come along with it, and how far we’ve come over the years. Even with all the progress we’ve made, some still believe the myth that therapy is reserved only for those during a crisis or when life seems to be so broken that they need “professional help”. We know that’s not the case. Therapy is a proactive tool that should be used just like exercising and eating healthy. You take care of your body. There’s no reason you shouldn’t take care of your mind, too.

Waiting to use therapy as a last resort during rock-bottom moments is kind of like waiting until your car is broken down to get the oil changed. Sure, you can do that, but the mechanic is going to have to figure out why the car broke down and fix that issue before they even get to changing the oil. The same concept applies to therapy. We see this a lot in couples therapy. For example, a couple comes in who’s struggling in their relationship. They’re on the brink of divorce and desperate for help only to find out that each partner has a whole list of resentments and built-up hurts, along with individual issues that need to be untangled before the relationship can be tended to. Seeking regular counseling from a professional therapist is smart, and forward-thinking for anyone looking to grow personally, increase their emotional intelligence, strengthen relationships, and navigate life’s challenges before they arise.

We all have trauma. We all have issues. None of us are immune to the slings and arrows of this world, especially in the 2020s. A professional counselor is trained to help you sort through your unique story, reprocess dysfunctionally stored information, foster connection and collaboration with yourself and others, and expand your resources while learning to identify negative thought patterns and behaviors, practice mindfulness (even if you think it’s cheesy to call it that), and how to develop healthy coping mechanisms that you can put into practice for years to come. Think of therapy as personal training for the mind. You might not get a six-pack or ripped biceps, but you will get to know yourself a lot better and your newfound resiliency will be well worth the effort.

depressed man husband father brother

“Therapy Is Just for the Weak.”

Another common myth is that therapy is just for the weak. This is a lie. This might be a bad thing to say while we’re trying to convince you that now is the time to start therapy, but the truth is, that therapy can be hard. It’s for those who are ready to get serious about their mental health and put in the work. Harkening back to the exercise analogy, if you want to have that great body, it won’t just come to you overnight. You have to focus on the areas that need to be addressed. You have to supply the right nutrients and do the right workouts. The time to start is always now, or yesterday is even better. But we’re not going to lie to you and say that it will be easy.

It takes a lot of courage and strength to sit down with a stranger and open up. Entire books have been written and TED Talks have been given about the neuroscience of vulnerability. This is really tough for a lot of people and it’s what going to therapy is all about. Sharing your thoughts, feelings, goals, actions, and more with this person sitting across from you, just because they have some letters after their name, requires a great deal of trust and a great deal of strength on your part. So, if anyone ever tells you that you’re weak for going to therapy, chances are 1) they don’t know you very well, and 2) they don’t know themselves and probably could use a bit of therapy, too.

“Talking to a Good Friend or Family is Just as Good as Therapy.”

It’s great that you have a support system! Not everyone has that. A strong support system can get you a long way in life. But have you heard that saying, “You’re just too close to the situation?” That plays an important role here. A licensed therapist can offer a different perspective that your friends or family members may just not be able to see. No matter how great your friend is, or how wise your family members are, it’s always going to be difficult for them to remain unbiased. This is a good thing! They love you and care about you! They want to protect you, just as you do for them.

This innate human instinct to protect those we love isn’t just because we’re nice. It’s science, just like the fear of vulnerability. We have oxytocin and vasopressin to thank for this. These are both neuropeptides associated with various regions of the brain, including the amygdala, prefrontal cortex, and reward pathways, to regulate social behaviors and emotional responses. Most of us know that oxytocin is the “love hormone”. Vasopressin is similar, but it focuses more on behaviors related to territory and protection. In other words, our brain makes the stuff it needs to tell us to take care of the people we love.

therapy for better mental health

Of course, your therapist cares for you and wants what’s best for you too, but your friend and family members have built up those oxytocin and vasopressin reserves that make them just a bit too close to the situation to remain unbiased and offer you the most helpful counseling. Also, your therapist has years of education and training to help you. So, that helps, too.

“If I Start Therapy, I’ll Have to Go Forever.”

I mean, you can if you want, but this statement is another lie. Of course, everyone is different, but most of the reasons people start going to therapy can be addressed in 10-20 sessions. Typical therapists follow a basic five-stage process.

  • Getting to Know You/Rapport Building – At your first appointment, your therapist will go over basic get-to-know-you questions and housekeeping stuff like appointment times and confidentiality. This is your chance to get to know them, too. You don’t have to share your entire life story or deepest, darkest traumas. This session is just building the relationship, which is referred to as the therapeutic alliance. Building this connection ensures success throughout your time together.
  • History Taking – After that, they’ll get a bit deeper, going into what you’re struggling with, what brought you in, where you feel stuck, and any anxiety and stress triggers you might have.
  • Goal Setting – From here you and your therapist will set goals and decide how to move forward. This could be six weeks of therapy or six years, or anything in between. It’s whatever you need. The timeframe isn’t really the point so much as the results that you’re looking to accomplish. Do you want to heal from past traumas? Are you trying to be better at communicating? Do you want to find better ways to cope with anxiety? Whatever the goal, that’s what your therapist is there to help with.
  • Counseling – Here’s where the fun begins! This is when the therapy starts. Don’t worry, even if it’s your first time, your therapist has been doing this for a long time. Even new therapists require hundreds of hours of training and years of education before they’re allowed to begin practicing. They’ll guide you through each step of the way with your goals in mind. This is the stage where you’ll begin to see changes, start to feel unstuck and see healing take place.
  • Evaluation & Graduation – At this stage, your therapist will reassess with you and discuss if you want to continue therapy or if you’re ready to begin managing your mental health on your own using the tools you’ve learned. In either case, your mental health is the top priority and you’re in charge.

“All Therapists Do Is Listen.”

Sure, in the beginning, you’re going to do a lot of talking. It’s called talk therapy for a reason. But you’re not going to get off the hook that easily. Your therapists will definitely do more than listening and you will do more than talking. Be prepared for a lot of questions and maybe even some homework. While the questions are designed to pull answers out of you, there are no right or wrong answers. You don’t have to be ashamed if you can’t find the right words, if you say “um” a thousand times, or even if you need to draw a picture to explain something. The purpose is to work together to reach your mental health goals. This could include many different modalities, including EMDR, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Solution Focused Therapy (SFT), or a combination of other evidence-based therapeutic modalities, all of which have specific standards of practice.

When is the Right Time to Start Therapy?

So, if you’re still curious about when the best time to start therapy may be, our answer is still sooner, rather than later. Therapy isn’t just a response to mental health challenges. It’s not just something to do when times are tough. It’s self-care. You don’t have to go every day, but you can go any day. Just like exercise, therapy is a way to improve your well-being and create a more fulfilling life. Together we can dispel any old-fashioned stigmas about therapy and make it a resource for everyone. We’re here online and in Scottsdale when you’re ready to start!

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Where To Find Us!

Monday – Friday | 9am – 5pm
10613 N Hayden Rd, Ste J-100
& 10617 N Hayden Rd, Ste B-100
Scottsdale, AZ 85260

(Note we have 2 suites. Please check with your therapist to confirm where to go!)

Counselors in Haden Park Area