Greetings. Thanks to those of you who reached out and gave me your feedback and testimonies regarding my latest post about my experiences using medication for anxiety treatment. It’s something that I’ve struggled with accepting so it felt good to know that others have had similar paths to mine. Today, I’m going to discuss another method that I have utilized on my journey through battling anxiety.
Like I stated last week, there is a certain image that comes to mind when people think of counseling. They think of sitting on a couch while a therapist dives into their head to analyze how past experiences have shaped the feelings and shortcomings they have today. I too shared this misconception and was likewise averse to using therapy to help treat my anxiety.
I’m happy to say that I finally broke through this aversion to therapy and decided to see a counselor for the first time a few years ago. It was nothing like what I had thought it was going to be. The first appointment I spent about the first 30 minutes filling out various questionaires about how i was feeling RIGHT THEN. There was very little that was asked about my distant past. We were dealing with the present and how it could shape my future. The rest of that session was spent getting to know one another. My counselor wanted to get to know my story and my concerns. She also wanted to know what I wanted to get out of therapy.
After our initial visit, we would meet about once per week to discuss the stresses in my life and how I could manage my emotions to be proactive instead of reactive. She taught me the importance of being able to walk away from a stressful intense situation and revisit it once I had simmered down (a tactic I am still working on to this day). I spent 6 weeks visiting with this therapist and am happy to say it had a positive effect on how I have approached my emotions.
What I learned
- Emotions are normal. Everyone is allowed to have whatever emotion they deem appropriate to a situation. Some are positive, some are negative, but all are normal. What isn’t normal is allowing our emotions to control us. We must recognize that we are feeling certain emotions instead of resisting them. Sometimes, you have to go as far as saying to yourself “I am angry” or “I am upset.” Once you recognize your emotions, then you can deal with the world in a more rational sense instead of being burdened by suppressed emotions.
- I have to do the work: a little part of me thought going into counseling that all I would have to do is attend these sessions and I would be “fixed” or “cured.” I didn’t expect to have to do work outside of the sessions. Well I realized that wasn’t the case pretty quick when I was sent home with homework like I was back in high school. I was given worksheets and exercises to complete and bring back to our next sessions. If this was going to work and I was going to get better, I had to put some real effort in. I am happy to report that these outside exercises did work and I am still using them to this day.
- Counseling is for anyone needing help. Again, my preconceptions about counseling was wrong. I thought that people who needed counseling were criminals or on the verge of suicide. What I quickly learned is that counseling is for anyone who is struggling with stress (which is probably the vast majority of the population). It allows us to be open and honest about what is going on in our lives without the fear of judgement or ridicule.
- Counseling can be a bit expensive. It’s definitely worth the price, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that it was a little pricey. Unfortunately, a lot of health insurance carriers do not cover counseling. Also, many counselors do not accept insurance. So your therapy is going to be payed for mostly out of your own pocket. But I found this as a great motivator. I wanted to get the most out of each of these sessions to make sure I get my money’s worth.
Do you have any preconceptions about counseling/therapy? Have you had any experiences, positive or negative? What have you learned from attending therapy? All are questions that I’d love to hear other peoples answers to. I’m thankful that I was able to get over myself and finally see a counselor. It laid a foundation to how I deal with my own issues to this day and into the future. Perhaps my only regret in my journey with anxiety is that I did not attend counseling sooner. I would’ve liked to try a few months of counseling before I resorted to medications. But I’m happy to say that they are not mutually exclusive. I am feeling very comfortable using both medication and the tactics I learned in counseling.
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