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.
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
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:
In your career/ work:
NEED TO SEE A THERAPIST
If you are experiencing the below, it’s TIME to seek professional help.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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