New To Therapy

WHAT IS THERAPY?

Therapy, counseling or psychotherapy is the process of working with a licensed clinician to address emotional, behavioral, psychological concerns that affect your mental health and wellness. 

WHEN TO SEE A THERAPIST

The answer is not that simple, especially if you come from a family, class, and cultural background where therapy is a foreign concept and seeking professional help comes with added shame and stigma.  


Research shows that when Asian Americans seek mental health services like therapy, their symptoms are more severe compared to other racial groups. Don't wait too long to seek help. Just as an untreated cut can turn into an infection, an everyday life distress can become a bigger problem without the proper support.


Below we are providing a list of experiences that you might be having and grouped them based on their severity and the respective recommended action: 


  • Consider seeing a therapist
  • Need to see a therapist
  • Must get support immediately

 

CONSIDER SEEING A THERAPIST

If you are experiencing any of the below, consider seeing a therapist. A therapist can help you through these issues before they become a bigger challenge. 


With your sense of self and well being:

  • Most of the time you feel okay but a bit numb
  • Nothing excites you
  • You have a lot to say but no one to say it to
  • You keep your emotional experiences to yourself
  • You have a pervasive experience of not belonging
  • You often feel like a fraud and/or inauthentic 
  • You feel scared and unable to make choices
  • You have physical ailments that don’t go away and/or have unknown causes

In relationships:

  • Your relationships are not satisfying
  • You feel overly responsible for other people in your life
  • You disappear in certain situations and/or with certain people
  • You have social anxiety 
  • You have a strained relationship with family (parents, siblings, grandparents, etc)
  • You feel burdened and overwhelmed by family and relationships
  • You feel pressured and/or stuck to be in a certain role 
  • You feel misunderstood a lot

In your career/ work:

  • You feel empty and unsatisfied with your work, despite significant accomplishments
  • You feel stuck 
  • You feel overworked
  • You have many interests but not sure what direction to go
  • You feel lost   

 

NEED TO SEE A THERAPIST

If you are experiencing the below, it’s TIME to seek professional help.

  • You can’t seem to hold it together anymore
  • Your emotions overtake you
  • You act out aggressively and unexpectedly
  • You cry for no apparent reason
  • You are constantly worried and can’t seem to be able to relax
  • You obsessively think about events and people
  • You have constant nightmares and/or don’t sleep at all
  • You are losing or hurting important relationships in your life
  • Your friends and/or family mentioned that you seem different
  • Some friends and/or family are distancing themselves from you
  • Your job and/or livelihood is at stake.  You are messing up at work and people are noticing
  • You are using and abusing substances and/or activities and/or people
  • You experienced something traumatic 
  • You experienced a big loss 


MUST GET HELP IMMEDIATELY

If you are experiencing any of the below, you should seek help immediately. In addition to a therapist, you might need additional support from psychiatrist and/or other services.

  • You are engaging in self-harm behaviors
  • You are extremely sad and low 
  • You cannot perform daily activities
  • You experience extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria
  • You have difficulty perceiving reality
  • You are having delusions and hallucinations
  • You are having suicidal thoughts. If you have a plan, call 911 immediately.

DOES THERAPY WORK?

There is consistent, scientific evidence that shows therapy Is an effective treatment to address emotional and behavioral challenges. However, not all therapists and therapy work the same way. So finding the right therapist is important.  

HOW IS THERAPY DIFFERENT FROM TALKING TO FRIENDS

While friends can be supportive, they are not impartial. A therapist is not just a supportive listener, they are trained to listen and facilitate a process to help you clarify feelings, explore difficult experiences, face unresolved trauma, notice patterns that are getting in your way, etc.

BENEFITS OF THERAPY

Recover from the past

We have all had hurtful experiences/events in our lives. It doesn’t matter how “bad” those experiences/events were. They impact us.  Most of the time and for various reasons, we don’t fully recover from these experiences/events. 


We might have been told to not dwell on the past, focus on future, be grateful for what we have or we just don’t have the privilege (trying to survive in new country, immigration status, etc) to recover or we don’t have tools to recover or or all the above!


But as humans, we are resilient. To continue on, we develop coping strategies (disassociation, numbing, overwork, isolation, addiction, compartmentalization, codependence, etc) to deal with these events/experiences and to protect us from further hurt.

The problem is that these coping strategies don’t work perfectly and not permanently. They have consequences such as depressive symptoms, anxiety, inability to thrive, unsatisfying relationships, overflow of emotions, lack of purpose, etc. 


The past continues to have a grip on you.


With the support of a skilled therapist, you can begin to recover from the past.  The goal is to loosen and release the grip the past has on you so you can live more fully in the present.


Make better decisions


In therapy, you get to slow down, be with yourself, clarify your thoughts and feelings, access your emotional experience, see what’s really happening so you can make decisions more thoughtfully and consciously.


And, related to the first benefit, when the past isn't controlling, you make better decisions. 


Have more satisfying relationships


We all have patterns of being and relating that get in the way of having more satisfying relationships.

 

You might have built a safety armor, afraid of intimacy.

You might be a people pleaser. smiling and saying yes to everything and everyone.

You might feel that you have to be in control, always.

You might have a certain role in your family that you resent. 

You might be the life of the party but rather be alone.

You might have difficulty communicating your needs.

You might be highly critical of others.

Etc...


In therapy, you get to understand these patterns, examine them, and try new ways of being and relating that lead to more satisfying relationships.


Increase capacity to handle life's challenges


At the same time that you are recovering from the past, making better decisions, changing patterns of being and relating, you are gathering tools, increasing your ability and capacity to handle what the future might hold. 


Break the generational cycle


Sometimes, our difficulties didn’t start with us.


Many of our parents and ancestors experienced traumatic events: wars, torture, poverty, loss of culture/family/community, violence, racism, exploitation…


Research has shown that unprocessed traumatic experiences not only impact the person directly affected but they impact future generations through learned behavior and genetics.


If not addressed, the effects of trauma keep passing from generation to generation. 


With therapy, there is an opportunity to break that cycle for the current and future generations.

HOW OFTEN? AND, FOR HOW LONG?

Generally, you meet with a therapist once week or bi-weekly for 50 minutes or 60 minute sessions. How you long you stay in therapy is up to you and can be discussed with your therapist. Some people go to therapy to address a specific situation / concern which can last 10-15 sessions. Other people may choose to stay in therapy for years. And, some return to therapy at different points in their lives to address specific issues and events.