Nothing wrong with seeing a therapist
ONE of the people I admire so much in life is my friend, my confidant, my voice of reason, Debra Machando. The way she carries and handles herself is very admirable while her general composure is just a marvel. Debra is a clinical psychologist. Psychology is a study area that questions the mental functionality of people. I often watch Debra as she performs her duties and makes some of her presentations; people look at her in a funny way.
They don’t think she is relevant in the lives of normal people. People mostly don’t know what to expect from Debra and so they analyse her to see ‘how she will analyse’ them. It is always a very interesting scenario.
Clinical psychology is concerned with the assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental disorders.
These things can happen to absolutely anyone. Nobody is immune to mental dysfunction because nobody is immune to stress which is common among married couples and in all forms of relationships.
While professionals in this field often work in medical settings, clinical psychologists are not medical doctors and do not prescribe medications generally.
Clinical psychology also represents the single largest subfield of psychologists.
While all clinical psychologists are interested in mental health, there are actually a wide variety of subspecialties within this field.
Some of these specialty areas include child mental health, adult mental health, learning disabilities, emotional disturbances, substance abuse, geriatrics, and health psychology.
Science tells us that speaking your fears and goals out loud to somebody in person is powerful. Therapists are trained to not judge you, and can help you map out a new strategy for life.
So if you are not sure whether making a therapy appointment is right for you, here are six not-so-obvious signs that you might benefit from a psychologist.
1. You always assume the worst. Your reaction is always exaggerated and you think of the worst possible situation.
Being stood up on a date equals dying alone with 200 cats. Blowing a job interview destines you for a life under a bridge.
When you always assume the worst, facts have very little meaning. Optimism seems so hard, and your negativity can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Therapists call this “catastrophising,” and over time it can lead to serious depression or anxiety problems.
Professionals often use a popular intervention known as cognitive behavioural therapy, to help you practise identifying and restructuring your irrational thoughts into more realistic ones.
2. You mentally beat yourself up. Some of the kindest and most competent people in this world have a secret battle being waged in their brains.
Nothing they do is good enough, and they relive mistakes over and over like a Real World marathon. As much as they care for others, they struggle to extend the patience they have for friends towards themselves.
As writer Anne Lamott says, “My mind is a neighbourhood I try not to go into alone,” so taking a professional along for the trip might be worth it.
One therapy technique is called “externalising”. This is where you learn to stop seeing problems as external forces rather than character flaws.
By not taking problems so personally, you can start to prioritise the health of your mind and body.
3. You take responsibility for other people’s problems. While certain people manage their fears by avoiding responsibility, some try to control others.
The psych term for this is called “over-functioning.” You might seem like the healthy one if you are always solving everyone’s problems and taking your depressed mom’s phone calls a dozen times a day.
But being a successful adult is about not doing for others what they can do for themselves.
A therapist can help you see a pattern of overfunctioning in your own family and what triggers you to take on someone else’s load.
From there, you can begin to strategise how to be an asset to the people you love without necessarily being responsible for them.
4. You feel helpless when you’re stressed. It feels pretty good to text a friend to complain about your boss, but constant reliance on others to calm your emotions can cause problems.
Good mental health is about taking responsibility for your own distress rather than blaming or always depending on others.
When you think about it, therapists are kind of soccer coaches. They help you learn and practise the plays that help you feel in control of your life.
Research has shown that people who feel they have no control over their environment, also known as an “external locus of control,” are more at risk of suffering from depression, low-self-esteem, and even physical health problems.
Therapy is the training ground for generating healthy reactions to stress, helping you bounce back faster on a tough day.
5. You tend to avoid difficult situations. Humans wouldn’t have survived for thousands of years if they didn’t have the instinct to avoid threatening situations.
But if you’re never going home to see your dysfunctional family or can’t summon the courage to go to that daunting job interview, then you’re only giving yourself temporary relief.
A therapist could help you to be more objective about the people you loathe. Inch by inch, you may find yourself rebuilding the bridges you burnt and taking brave leaps into new territory.
6. You care too much about what other people think. Approval and recognition are basic human needs. But when you live your life for the praise of others, you might find yourself making compromises that are not true to yourself.
People who turn into chameleons to fit in with the group are often the unhappiest of people in life. Mentally healthy people make decisions from the inside out. They don’t put their beliefs and goals up for a vote.
There are a thousand good excuses for you not to see a therapist. You might have a horrible financial situation or an insane schedule that won’t seem to budge.
But just for a second, take the time to think about all the things you prioritise over your mental health.
Is catching up on your favourite series or going on your third happy hour of the week really making you feel like the best version of yourself?
So take a chance on therapy, and see what it can do for you. Debra shares stories of people who ‘came back’ to hope after attempting suicide!
You can ask your doctor for a recommendation, or google for a list of local professionals. Many university clinics or non-profit organisations also offer free or affordable counselling.
Who knows, maybe you’ll find a trick or two for how to be a little kinder to yourself. Or maybe you’ll find that you have the answers already, and you just needed someone to hear you say them out loud.
Psychologists are among the most needed people to have around in my opinion. It is quite unfortunate that there are cultural stereotypical notions that say psychologists are only for other races that are not Black Africans.
It is for this reason that black people dominate the statistics of people who go to unscrupulous places to try and get explanations of what happens in our lives instead of going to professionals to get help.
There is nothing wrong with going to see a psychologist. In fact, there is everything wrong with trusting unprofessional people with your life and your future.
Many are times when people go through traumatic events like divorce, death, job loss or depression and it has really shaken them to the core.
There are a lot of issues that affect a person’s mental state. Anyone’s mental health can be compromised especially when a country is economically unstable.
It is inevitable that there are mental implications. While experience from the elderly would help, it would be even better to get professional advice and assistance.
If you are on medical aid you would be glad to know that you can see a clinical psychologist and your medical aid pays for it.
So instead of blaming anything and everything for the bad things happening in your life, go on, make that appointment. It could change your life!
Tsungai Chekerwa-Machokoto can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org
Clinical psychology also represents the single largest subfield of psychologists. While all clinical psychologists are interested in mental health, there are actually a wide variety of sub-specialties within this field. Some of these specialty areas include child mental health, adult mental health, learning disabilities, emotional disturbances, substance abuse, geriatrics, and health psychology