When most people think of therapy, it's easy to assume that the individual is experiencing unmanageable mental health issues and may have had some severe trauma in their childhood. Therapy can indeed address past traumas, but it’s way more than that.
I have a few friends that go to therapy and all of them didn’t grow up in a healthy environment. It just made sense to me that therapy was for people that have had a ‘big trauma’ when they were younger. ‘Nothing traumatic happened in my life, so I don’t need therapy.’ This is a thought I used to think a lot until I went to therapy myself.
I started therapy a few years ago. I was mentally ill for almost a year at that point. I wish that I had told someone sooner, but I felt ashamed and I never thought that my problems were that serious. One night I sat down with my parents and told them that I wasn’t happy. They were very helpful and the next day I was already in the doctor’s office. I first went to see a doctor with my parents and she sent me to a therapist. I was waitlisted and a month later I had my first session. I was so scared and I felt ashamed. I did not tell anyone, not even my close friends. I still thought that I wasn’t ‘sick enough’ to deserve all that attention. The first session was not that special, we just got to know each other and I told her what was going on.
After a few sessions, I noticed that therapy is so much more than just talking about your dead goldfish for
an hour. I did talk a lot about how I was feeling, but we also made to-do lists and we played games to understand my emotions. I was (and still am) a very busy person. I can’t say no easily and I have a lot of hobbies. My therapist helped me put together a week where I have enough time to rest and to do the things I love.
After a while, I started to find more peace in my mind. I also realized that I deserved therapy as much as anyone else does. I needed help coping with the stress I had in my life. ‘Going to a counselor or therapist when you are feeling sad or overwhelmed should be as normal as going to the doctor when you have the flu.’ You don’t have to have had a ‘big trauma’ to go to therapy. I had an amazing childhood with great parents, but I still benefited from going to therapy.
And there is more. Not that long ago I read an article by a psychologist Dana Gionta. She said that most of her clients don’t even have a serious mental illness. The people she helps are mostly people that are going through changes in their lives and don’t know how to deal with them. Those changes can be switching jobs or experiencing more stress.
The point is, seeing a therapist or a counsellor can often unearth minor things from your childhood that wouldn't class as trauma, but still had an impact. You can benefit from therapy without having an obvious childhood trauma. I grew up with the most caring parents ever and still benefited from therapy. I also learned the skills I still use today. If you are reading this and you are not feeling your best, please know that you deserve help too.