Who actually goes to therapy?
When you picture the waiting room for a counsellor or a therapist, who do you see sitting there? A jumpy, paranoid individual? A sobbing, tear-streaked person? Although movies, books, and stigma surrounding mental health have painted this picture, the reality is that many different kinds of people go to therapy for a variety of different reasons. In fact, in 2017 5.3 million Canadians needed some sort of help for their mental health. There isn’t one type of person who goes to therapy – everyone has mental health, just as everyone has physical health!
Why do people go to therapy?
Just like there isn’t one type of person who goes to therapy, there isn’t one reason to start therapy. Some common reasons include:
Feeling overwhelmed and from work, school, personal life, etc.
Grief or loss of a loved one
Feelings of intense sadness, hopelessness, or anxiety
Problematic substance use or addiction
Coping with a trauma
Mental illness, such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, etc.
To learn relationship or problem solving skills
This list is not exhaustive - there are other reasons why someone might start therapy. No one has lived the same life as someone else – your life and experiences have shaped your beliefs, and perspectives in a different way than my life has shaped me.
Should I go to therapy?
Where is the line between the normal lows we all experience, and the need for professional help? Although everyone is different, here are some general indicators that it might be time to seek help:
Your day-to-day functioning has been impacted, including work, school, and personal relationships
You are feeling significantly distressed, which can include feeling overwhelmed, on edge, depressed, or helpless
You’re experiencing thoughts of suicide
The difficulties you are experiencing feel unmanageable
Because of the stigma surrounding mental health, it’s easy to feel like you don’t “qualify” for counselling. Keep in mind – 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime, and those aged 15-24 are more likely to experience a mental illness. It’s not as uncommon as you may think! Even after feeling unwell for a long time, it can be difficult to realize that it’s time to seek help. Anyone can struggle with their mental health, whether they have a diagnosed mental illness or not, and it’s okay for those people to reach out as well.
What is therapy like?
Short answer – it depends! There are many different types of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy, interpersonal therapy, family therapy, and more. Different types of therapy may be more effective for different concerns, and the counsellor you are matched with may specialize in one area of mental health, or one type of therapy. It may be helpful to explore the different types of therapy to get an understanding of what type may be a good fit for you.
It may feel awkward at first to talk about personal issues with someone who you’ve never met before – and that’s okay! Therapy can be challenging – it can be difficult to allow yourself to be vulnerable. You may not leave every session feeling relieved – it can be hard work to confront your problems. Therapy is a two-way street: just as you will expect your therapist to work hard for you, they will expect you to put in work as well.
People who identify as 2SLGBTQIA+, Black, or BIPOC may prefer a professional who shares their lived experiences. Unfortunately, the systemic discrimination faced by these groups can extend into the mental health system. Although this is a personal choice, and not everyone needs a therapist who has had the same experiences as them, it is worth considering as you start therapy. More information on this can be found on the links below:
Where can I seek therapy?
If you’re ready to explore options for therapy, here are some places you can start:
Student Counselling Centre: Located on the fourth floor of University Centre, currently available during COVID-19 restrictions.
Empower Me: Online or telephone counselling services, currently available during COVID-19 restrictions.
Klinic Drop-in Counselling: Located at 870 Portage Avenue in Winnipeg, temporarily paused during COVID-19 code red. Check their website for updates.
Manitoba Mental Health Virtual Therapy: Virtual therapy program implemented by the government of Manitoba, currently available during COVID-19 restrictions.
If you are experiencing a crisis, please call:
Canada Suicide Hotline: 1-833-456-4566
Klinic Crisis Line: 204-786-8686
Mobile Crisis Service: 204-940-1781
Manitoba Suicide Prevention and Support Line: 1-877-435-7170
One-on-one therapy is not for everyone: different things are effective for different people. Some may find spiritual services, workshops, group therapy, or other services to be more effective for them. Be patient and allow yourself time to learn what works for you.