Busting Therapy Myths and Practising Everyday Mental Maintenance. A Q&A with Self Space

Busting Therapy Myths and Practising Everyday Mental Maintenance. A Q&A with Self Space

25 08 21 By: Estée Lalonde
Self Space is a contemporary mental health service offering a good conversation with a qualified person, through straightforward access to flexible therapy.

MIRROR WATER asked Jodie Cariss, founder ofSelf Space about the basics of accessing therapy.

This Q&A would benefit those who are unsure of how to approach therapy, or those who would like to develop their understanding of how therapy could work for them.

"Holding on to the idea that we need a reason to start therapy can actually hold us back from beneficial support. "

MIRROR WATER: Why might a person might seek out therapy?

SELF SPACE:
Holding on to the idea that we need a reason to start therapy can actually hold us back from beneficial support.

There’s a misconception when it comes to therapy that you seek out support when you are at your lowest, you’ve hit the bottom and don’t know how to get back. In fact therapy is an incredible tool to better understand ourselves and our needs. It’s useful if we have an openness to self inquiry, get curious enough to explore yourself in a safe space. We don't need to have any specific symptoms or diagnosis or have a problem that needs solving. We can simply want to understand ourselves better, navigate reaching our potential or be wanting to explore the corners of our lives. 
 
Other reasons we might begin therapy can include but not be limited to: feeling overwhelmed, stressed, envious, lonely, disengaged; experiencing grief, trauma, low moods, a loss of joy or hope, a lack of direction; using alcohol or substances in a way that does not feel good. You might also begin therapy through the desire to understand your past, or wanting to make an ok relationship great, or to process a significant life event. If you’re experiencing any of these things we’d suggest booking in for a chat and seeing where you could benefit from support.

MW: Do you have any tips or gages for people to check in with themselves regarding their mental wellbeing?

SS:
Busyness can be a big distraction when it comes to avoiding what is causing us distress. We have a tendency to plough through things so that we don’t feel what might be emotionally difficult for us, but when we stop and allow ourselves to really check in with what’s going on with us we will almost always have a very good idea of what needs tending to.

Having someone to support us to look at these aspects of ourselves and our lives in a productive, supportive and honest way can be hugely beneficial. To begin the process of breaking things down—having an hour each week to stop and enquire about ourselves—supports us not just in terms of crisis but in fact everyday, as we face the often grinding components of being human.

Taking a proactive approach to supporting our emotional selves (something Self Space wholeheartedly champion daily with ‘everyday mental maintenance’) gives us a chance to move beyond mental health awareness and into a space of mental wellness and understanding all year round.

"Labelling emotions and experiences might in fact disable you from looking further into and at yourself, giving you immediate relief but not long term change and understanding. "

MW: Based on the fact that almost everyone Googles their symptoms, is it ever okay to self-diagnose in the first instance?

SS: Googling often gives us validation for our feelings. Sometimes we need a label to anchor to when we are overwhelmed by what we are feeling. But looking at symptoms and defining solutions can be very limiting. If we think of our life experiences as a process, a moving set of linked things which is fluid and is connected to the past and the present, to our thoughts and feelings, our bodies and minds, it isn’t often just one thing or another. Labelling emotions and experiences might in fact disable you from looking further into and at yourself, giving you immediate relief but not long term change and understanding. We would advise avoiding googling—but instead, engage in talk with friends, loved ones and therapists about how you're feeling and what’s happening for you.

MW: Should therapy be undertaken in combination with medication?

SS: It certainly can be and it totally depends on each case and story. Sometimes the two work well in conjunction, sometimes one leads to the other. Therapy might support you moving away from medication if that’s something you want to pursue. In some cases, understanding your symptoms might lead to a diagnosis that calls for medication or a change in your current plan to support it. There is no clean cut rationale here as everyone’s experiences and needs here will differ, but having a space to explore what’s happening for you and what is and isn’t working is always beneficial.

 

MW: Sometimes it can be intimidating or confusing going into the first session. How can I tell if I need counselling versus something like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)?

SS: It’s ok to arrive not knowing. In some specific cases or for particular symptoms you might work with a practitioner in a particular discipline. We would always advise starting with your own interests in a practitioner as opposed to fixating on what their expertise is. Arrive and ask questions, share your hope for therapy and where you’re at and where you would like to be and see if you can connect. That’s the best place to begin and ensure the selection process isn’t so overwhelming which can often be a barrier to starting.

MW: Is online therapy as beneficial as therapy in-person?

SS:
Virtual sessions are brilliant because they allow you to slip therapy seamlessly into your daily routine but it’s really important that you allow yourself a couple of minutes before and after the session to sit with your feelings and digest them before diving into your next task. Pop your phone on silent, tell anyone who may need to contact you that you’ll be out of contact for a bit, and don’t schedule anything for immediately after your appointment – even half an hour can help.

MW: Is it normal to feel strongly about seeing, for example, a female therapist, or a therapist who looks like me?

SS: These thoughts and feelings about who you want to be your therapist or anxieties around ethnicity, gender, orientation etc are really good references to explore once the therapy has started. I.e. explicitly saying “It was important to me that you were a queer identifying therapist” because this might lead you into useful conversations about your core values. We would add that your therapist does not need to have gone through the same experiences as you to understand, be empathic and support your journey. You should expect a non judgemental space whoever you choose to work with.

 

MW: If someone decides to pursue private therapy, should they still see their GP first? 

SS: You can still consult with a GP if you feel you want to or if you also have health symptoms. Most qualified therapists can work in conjunction with your NHS process. If you do start therapy with the NHS this may cause conflict to your private process and then how that’s managed would need some thought. Therapists will often speak with your GP or other professionals to make sure you have the best supportive care and nothing is conflicting. Sometimes you might want or need to seek private therapy whilst you wait on an NHS waiting list.

"Having a period of self-reflection, working with a supporter who is non-biased and able to challenge your behaviour and choices when appropriate, like a therapist, can be invaluable to your growth at different stages in your life. "

MW: There are a few variations of the phrase ‘Everyone needs therapy’ floating around in popular culture. Should everyone go to therapy? 
 
SS: We need to be careful with trends around wellbeing and fancy quick fix solutions. It’s much more beneficial to integrate sustainable and useful ways for us to enhance our well being. Therapy is hard work. Making changes and engaging in the process of reflecting on yourself in order to reach your potential is not easy, glamorous or something that is going to create a quick fix. Having a period of self-reflection, working with a supporter who is non-biased and able to challenge your behaviour and choices when appropriate, like a therapist, can be invaluable to your growth at different stages in your life. If it feels like something you are interested in and would like to explore, do it. But don't make it another job to tick off your to do list because that won't support a meaningful process.

 

MW: Can or should someone go to therapy simply because they want to learn more about themselves? 

SS: Yes, 100 percent yes!

Stay tuned for our upcoming series with Self Space which will offer concise information about all of the different types of therapy with the aim of helping you to make informed decisions.