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Louise Koeckhoven

Why visiting a therapist does NOT make you a crazy person.

Huh, are you visiting a therapist?
Really, you… Why?!
I didn’t think you were crazy!

Why is this still a thing you hear people say – or at least- see them think? Yes, I’ve been visiting a psychologist last year. So, do you think I’m crazy now? Wouldn’t you take my word for granted anymore? Am I weak, silly, or a bit pathetic?

Sure, you can think that!

However, for me and many people in my surroundings, this crazy and unpredictable year was the year we finally paused our crazy lives and started working on ourselves. Some did it on their own, by just reading books and writing in their journals, but many around me joined a self-development tribe, started seeing a psychologist, coach, reflexologist, (Hypno)therapist, or joined a self-reflection program.

All of these people, without any exceptions, seem to feel better at the end of a – kind of – disappointing year. You would expect them to be sad, confused, and depressed, but no.. this wasn’t a wasted year for them, nor me. But this result wasn’t achieved without any work. Don’t think only going to the therapist or coach is going to solve the problem for you, they are just a tool, they will provide you with the questions, but you still have to do the hard work and put the puzzle in your head together.

Taking the first step
Taking the first step is never easy. Many thoughts can go through your head from ‘Why would I go, I’m not even sick..’ and ‘What if someone finds out?’ to ‘I’m just over-reacting, nothing bad happened in my life, others have it way worse.’ and ‘I really don’t want to open the door to all the crap in my head, what if I never stop crying?’.

I think we can all find a reason why not to go.. in that sense it’s the same as going to the gym, but instead of fat around your belly or legs, you are carrying a burden in your head or on your shoulders with you. This is just as unhealthy!

It doesn’t matter what the problem is, but every fear or shame grows in silence. Not talking about it makes it bigger, talking will make it shrink or even disappear. I think it’s important to know that, once you decide to visit someone to help you, it doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck in a 2 year-long program. Sometimes just visiting 2 or 3 times can help get back on track. So, also don’t hesitate because of the time or monetary investment, it doesn’t have to be as big as you made it in your head!

Finding the right fit for you
Therapists and all other health professionals are also people, just like you and me. Therefore, it is just like any other situation, sometimes you feel the chemistry and sometimes you just don’t. I know it is hard work to take that first step and the disappointment is massive if the person you decided to go to isn’t who you hoped it would be.

Keep in mind that you are doing this for yourself and not for the person you are paying, so in case you don’t feel it or after a few times you feel like you are not learning anything from this person anymore, be honest and open about it.

To try and avoid this moment, do some research before you start seeing someone (sounds a bit like dating, doesn’t it?). First of all, think about your goal for these sessions. Do you want practical tips or do you want someone to go beyond your thinking and get to your feeling? Do you want to talk to someone about your personal situation or are you looking for a career coach? If someone else refers their psychologist to you? First, check with them what kind of technique he or she uses and assess for yourself if this fits with your goals.

Also, most coaches and therapists have an intake session with you. After that session, check with yourself if you felt comfortable with this person and if you feel like you will be able to trust him/her. But, in case the first one isn’t the right fit for you, please don’t stop! Keep on trying.. do it for yourself!

A therapist or coach doesn’t have to be stiff, boring, or old. They can be just like you.

Finding long term solutions
At first, it can feel great to get rid of all those cobwebs in your head, to cry really hard or just to finally feel heard. I think this is a big first step. After a while though, try to find long-term and practical solutions to your problems, because one day you’ll want to do it without your therapist and you want to find your own systems of tackling problems. The therapist should also guide you towards these solutions, but be honest to him/her and yourself if these really feel achievable for you.

It’s not surprising or bad, by the way, if you want to return sometime after stopping your regular sessions. Don’t feel bad or ashamed about that, it’s perfectly normal and even a good sign that you learn to know when you can do it yourself, but also when you need help!

Removing taboos
I’ve been so surprised that once I – hesitantly – started talking to friends about the fact that I was talking to someone, many of them reacted with ‘ahh, isn’t it great? I’ve been doing the same for a while now and ‘Hmm, I was actually thinking about it as well, how is it?’. And if you think about it, isn’t that the case in many things we are afraid or ashamed of?

Maybe we should just start talking about all these taboos a bit more often and also, even if you don’t have the same thing, don’t judge others. Maybe, one day, you’ll have something you feel ashamed of one day as well and how do you want your friends to react at that moment?

Referrals and recommendations

I’m proud to say that two of my friends even let me know that they have gone to my therapist as well, after my recommendation. Did you find a good one and do you have people in your surrounding that could use someone to talk to? Then start the conversation about the fact that you’ve benefited so much and that if they ever want to have the details, you won’t mind giving them. NEVER EVER force anyone though! Just drop the subject and feel the reaction.

So, next time you hear anyone talking about the fact they are visiting a therapist, be aware of the work they did and the fears they’ve overcome to go this road and use the right way to react:

Are you going to a therapist?
Wow, that’s amazing!
Good luck, I hope it helps you!

(and uhm.. do you maybe have his/her details?)

The terms coach, psychologist and therapist are interchangeable in this text.
Are you ever unsure about visiting someone and you want to talk about it before taking that first step?

Feel free to reach out!

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