Therapist Answers: Is Therapy Really For Everyone?

Apr 16, 20247 min
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Anyone who has been to a therapist will tell you we rarely answer a question with a simple yes and no. So, is therapy for everyone? The answer is that it’s a little complicated. 

As therapists ourselves, we’re obviously a little biassed and believe that a lot of people can benefit from mental health support. There’s no issue that is ‘too small’ to bring up in therapy and you can even enter therapy when there isn’t anything specific you want to work on. It can be a space for you to explore your mental landscape, talk about what’s happening in your life and enhance your skills and strengths, while working toward your dreams.

When Do I know I Need Therapy Support?

You can visit a therapist at any time you feel comfortable doing so. There are however, some signs that it may be a good idea to see a therapist:

  • You find yourself experiencing consistent changes in your sleep and or appetite.
  • You find yourself avoiding meeting people you care about or having difficulties in your relationships.
  • You’re finding it difficult to focus or do as well at work or school as you used to.
  • You find yourself feeling prolonged periods of sadness, uneasiness or anxiety.
  • You’ve experienced a challenging or big life event, such as a break up, the death of a loved one or the loss of a job. Even a positive event like a marriage or moving to attend a new college can bring a lot of mixed and confusing feelings.
  • You find yourself engaging in more frequent substance use or are uncomfortable with the frequency of substance use you are engaging in.
  • You’re having thoughts of harming yourself or other people. 
  • You’ve tried your usual ways of coping and seeking support, but they don’t seem to be helping.
When Do I Know I Need Therapy Support - Therapyclub

If you’ve been experiencing any or multiple of these signs, it’s a good indicator that seeking professional support in therapy may be helpful. It’s hard to find ways to cope with these things alone. In fact, even therapists themselves often go for their own therapy!

But What if Therapy Just isn’t Working For Me?

If you feel safe and have the resources to, we'd encourage you to give it another shot. There’s a whole world of types of therapy out there. Different therapists have different approaches and it’s important to find the right fit for you.  Sometimes, even a therapist’s personality can influence whether you gel well with them or not.  

Here’s just some of the many different approaches and modalities of therapy out there:

  • Some kinds of therapists will give you worksheets and homework and discuss the same in your conversations with them 
  • There are therapists who  will work more with the body through dance and art
  •  Other therapists will explore childhood and how it connects to your current concerns
  • There’s group therapy where you connect with not just one person but several people 
  • You can even have animal-assisted therapy, where you talk to a therapist in the presence of a pet co-therapist

Finding the right therapist is a bit like dating - you’ll just kind of know when you ‘click’ with each other.  If you’ve given therapy a shot, and it hasn’t really felt right, it could be that you haven’t found the right therapist or the right approach for you. 

In an ideal world, we believe everyone should find the right therapist and have a space for themselves to feel safe, explore their feelings, connect with other people and have support with becoming the person they want to be. But we don’t live in an ideal world, so here’s where our answer gets a little more complicated. 

So is Therapy Always a Great dea?  

We’re big advocates for therapy, but we’re also aware of its limitations. 

Here are some of the issues:

  •  Currently, most insurance providers do not cover mental health services and regular therapy can be a big expense, rendering it inaccessible to most people.
  • There’s also a scarce number of therapists who receive effective training and skills because of differences in the quality of education. Many therapists who complete their Master’s may not have taken a single therapy session during their training. 
  • Most mental health professionals are concentrated in urban areas of the country, making seeking support even more inaccessible. 
  • The mental health sector is largely unregulated in our country. Even though there are some laws on paper, very little of it is put into practice . This means that anyone can call themselves a counsellor or therapist and there’s very few redressal mechanisms to address malpractice.
  • Stigma still exists and is widely pervasive  in our country, making even help-seeking a challenge for many people. 
  • Finally, a lot of therapists are not trained in understanding the ‘social determinants of distress’ - this means therapists who do not practise with a social justice lens may not address how identities like caste, class, disability, sexuality and others may be impacting your mental health. This can make the therapy space quite alienating for someone having marginalised identities. Therapy practised in a very conventional way without considering socio-political issues can become just about ‘fixing’ the client and locating the problem within them, instead of in their context. Therapy practised in this manner without considering the context of the client can become a mechanism to stifle justified anger and hurt against unfair systems of power. For example, let’s take the recent ruling of the Supreme Court against marriage equality. If a queer client comes into a session feeling justified outrage and helplessness, socio-politically informed therapy can be either about allowing space for the anger and finding ways to channelise it. A less socio-politically informed practitioner may suggest ‘anger management’ techniques and find ways for the client to focus on the positives, becoming unhelpful, invalidating and a mechanism to stifle dissent. 

Will The Right Therapist Cure Me Completely? 

Therapy can also market the idea of complete healing or becoming cured from depression, anxieties or traumas. It’s true that the right therapy can be extremely beneficial for people. Therapy can help us manage our triggers better, build coping skills, help us be more compassionate toward ourselves and therapy can support us while we create our own community and grow. 

 At the same time, therapy can also put undue pressure on a person to be ‘cured’ or for a person to have no flaws, difficulties or challenges. It can induce a lot of shame for someone if they are not ‘normal’ or ‘fixed’ even after years of therapy. This is something disability justice advocates have critiqued and called part of the ‘survivor industrial complex’. This too needs to be taken into consideration when we look at therapy - is it about promising a ‘quick fix’ or is it about acceptance and honouring the unique ways in which our body and mind cope after and during traumatic or difficult events? 

There’s a nuance missing in our conversations about trauma, healing and mental health that leads to a lot of misconceptions about therapy and can put a lot of pressure on people to heal in a ‘complete and perfect’ way.  Therapy is not about reaching a state of perfect well being or happiness, but more to equip us to be able to manage life’s challenges. Healing or progress in therapy is not linear, there’s always going to be ups and downs, especially when we live in such a flawed an unequal world. The hope from therapy is not complete happiness or healing, but the ability to move through different states in our mood while allowing ourselves compassion and honouring our sadness.

Is Therapy The Only Path To Heal? 

Instagram would have you believe that therapy, self care and positive affirmations  is the only way to heal - but that’s simply not true. Talk therapy in its most conventional form has originated in the West and it doesn’t necessarily fit all our needs. Even the very idea of talking about our feelings, reflecting and being vulnerable may not be well received for certain communities within our cultural context. For very economically marginalised communities, living in a state of constant survival or abuse, reflecting on your feelings may in fact be quite unhelpful. 

 There’s also a massive mental healthcare gap in our country, with very few mental health professionals as compared to the number of people who need mental health support. We have 0.75 psychiatrists for every one lakh people who need mental healthcare. This means that we collectively need to re-imagine what mental health support looks like for us. What are ways that we can scale mental health support services? What kind of policy and systemic reform could help us meet each person’s mental health needs? 

There are some community models of training lay persons in providing psychological first aid - programmes in which people are  trained in basic counselling skills enter communities and provide mental health support to them. Our government has implemented the District Mental Health Program which involves integrating mental health with existing primary healthcare centres and NGO’s to scale mental health support. There have been challenges with regard to funding and resources, but this model is considered a step in the right direction. 

While we wait for and engage in working toward systemic reform, we also know that there’s other ways in which we can take care of our mental health.

For some people mental health support can look like going to therapy, but for others it can look like connecting with nature, engaging in the arts, yoga and leaning on our communities. A lot of times when we’re in a state of stress, anxiety or sadness our nervous system is ‘dysregulated’ or feeling like we are in a state of threat. These activities are body-based or involve connecting with the community and they can help shift our nervous system state into one of safety and relaxation. Put simply, movement and conversation both remind our bodies and nervous systems that we are safe and there is no immediate threat around us. 

Contrary to what the world is telling you, there's no right or wrong way to take care of yourself and your mental health. 

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6278227/

https://www.vice.com/en/article/bj9gpm/not-over-it-not-fixed-and-living-a-life-worth-living-whatever-gets-you-through

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/eclinm/article/PIIS2589-5370(23)00149-9/fulltext

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10443714/

Author's Profile picture
Prachi Gangwani
Therapist | Yoga Teacher | Author of Dear Men: Masculinity and Modern Love in #MeToo India