5 Tips for Starting Talk Therapy
I wanted to share with you a little bit about my experience with seeing a psychologist, and how it has helped me with managing my chronic illness. I’m not here to browbeat you and I know many people have had unpleasant experiences in the past with “psychologists” and “counsellors” – including myself.
What I would like to do, is to share with you some thoughts about psychology for chronic illness and what has made it easier for me to get benefit from counselling, rather than wanting to run a mile from it. So here are a few things to consider about counsellors and psychologists.
1. It is a relationship. Just like you’re not necessarily going to marry and have babies with the first boyfriend or girlfriend you ever have, the same principle applies here. The time spent with your counsellor/psychologist will only work if the relationship between you, works. If you’re not comfortable with the person you’re seeing, you’re not going to benefit – so don’t be afraid to pull the plug and try someone new. Finding someone you gel with and can talk comfortably to is critical to success.
2. Counselors and Psychologists have interests too. So just like the rest of us, counsellors and psychologists have certain areas that they have a greater interest in and, as a result, will often specialise in. Therefore, when looking for someone to see, it pays to find out if they do have a speciality or special interest that is appropriate to you, as they will be much more enthusiastic about helping you as a result, and also more knowledgeable about your situation.
For me, this meant working with someone who dealt with PTSD, chronic pain, and chronic illness. Before I was sick, the focus was on PTSD, but afterwards, that extra interest in chronic pain/illness was invaluable to me. My psychologist was able to help me understand my own situation, and equip me with tools to use outside of our appointments to manage my pain, emotions, and overall mental wellbeing. I use them on a regular basis and they have made a big difference in my quality of life.
3. It doesn’t have to cost the earth. In Australia, there is access to medicare subsidised mental health care for those who qualify (Read more here). Alternatively, you may need to search a little bit, but some areas do have psychologists who bulk-bill or are prepared to bulk-bill on request under special circumstances. So if you are on a budget, as many of us are, that doesn’t mean you have to rule out seeing someone.
4. Having an independent, non-bias shoulder helps. Have you ever just wanted to get stuff off your chest about your situation, but when you try to tell a friend or family member, you get told not to be so negative, or they try to give you solutions, or just switch off when all you need to do is just…. Get it out? I’m willing to bet we’ve all been there. Well…. That’s where having a psychologist or counsellor comes in handy… they’re non-bias, non-judgemental and they’re not going to stop being there to listen because it’s “too much” for them to cope with (we’ve all had one of those friends.)
They will listen, they may also then go on to give you some tools to help to stop it from getting on top of you next time, but most importantly, they will listen, and they WANT you to share it with them. It is a safe place where you can unburden yourself of all those things you can’t say to anyone else for fear of upsetting them, pushing them away, being seen as a whinging and all those other reasons we tell ourselves not to speak up.
5. You have someone on your side. Once you’ve achieved number 1 on the list, and found the person you want to see, it can be so uplifting to know that, no matter what else is happening in your life, no matter who else may have let you down, frustrated you, left you out, shut you out or anything else (although I hope such events are few and far between!) your psychologist is ALWAYS on your side. They’re rooting for you to beat this and make the most of your life no matter what you unburden yourself with, in their presence!
I’ll leave it at that. But consider this, even though you may not have depression or anxiety, dealing with a chronic illness/condition is hard. It’s challenging – very challenging. And sometimes, prevention is better than a cure. Seeing a psychologist can still help equip you with tools to get through the day, as well as providing a safe, confidential environment to just get things off your chest. You don’t have to have mental illness to benefit from their services.
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I’m Michelle, and I am a New Zealand born & raised, Aussie. I have joint hypermobility & orthostatic intolerance amongst other conditions such as Crohn’s & chronic fatigue. Prior to becoming significantly unwell, I was a young, active woman on a ‘career & study’ path. My health changed that and I now currently operate a small business from home, with the help of my fiancé, who has been my pillar of support & inspiration. I have learned a great deal through my illnesses and look forward to sharing some of those things with others. I feel like I am gradually working towards reclaiming control of my life and look forward to returning to social ballroom dancing with my fiancé and partner by the end of the year.