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Onto the fun!
This week is a resource week! Normally I’d send out a couple resources and save the meatier stuff for every other week; however, the past week has had a leitmotif for therapy. I’ve had multiple people in the past week telling me they’ve started therapy or are thinking of starting therapy. I’ve had even more people talk about getting loved ones into therapy. I’ve also heard multiple flavors of push-back to these efforts, some of which I want to address because they seem to be common.
First of all, for those of us who were raised in America: I’m sorry. This “rugged individualism” bullshit has fucked us up royally. So many people I know are running around trying to juggle 10,000 responsibilities and maintain 10,000 relationships and hold in 10,000 feelings because we’ve been told that we need to be strong and independent and do things on our own. This completely ignores the human necessities of community and support. We romanticize taking care of ourselves to the point of feeling ashamed for wanting help and being terrified to ask for it.
I want to tell you right now that this thinking is fucked. It does not set us up for success as people and as a society. If you get sick or physically injured, you go to the doctor for health. Mental health is health. People seem to be able to find childcare or rearrange their schedules to go to other kinds of medical appointments. Therapy appointments should be treated the same way. They’re only helpful if you go.
And maybe you don’t think your problems are “important enough” to go to therapy, and that there are bigger, more dire problems in the world. The truth is, these things aren’t mutually exclusive. You can have problems that are affecting your life and well-being AND there are also large global problems that need to be fixed. Both things are valid things to address and just because one is being addressed doesn’t mean the other has to go without attention.
Let me put it this way: we might be more useful in tackling the big problems if we also have our own shit together.
<image above is a gif of someone painting the words “It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to get help.”>
So, what is therapy?
Therapy is different for different people. Therapy is not medication. It is not brainwashing. Therapy is a tool, maybe not to “fix” a person (we really need to get away from this idea of being “broken”) but more to get a person unstuck. Maybe you’re stuck in a cycle of grief. Or bad decision-making. Or addiction. Maybe you’re an adult but still don’t know what you’re doing with your life (lol, like 90% of us let’s be honest). Maybe you can’t get past your anxiety to work toward the kind of life you want. In that case, therapy is like a home improvement store where a therapist helps you find, develop, and use different tools to help you when you need it. By the end of your therapy journey, you’ll have a toolbox.
I also came across this the other day from an account I follow and I wanted to share it:
<image is black text on a white background reading, “Sometimes, therapy isn’t about the journey to become something else. Sometimes, therapy is all about undoing or un-becoming things that no longer serve you.>
Sometimes, therapy is about outsourcing emotional labor. Because, as I told my mother, I am not equipped to do the kind of emotional labor for my own parent that a therapist can do. Her talking to a professional has not only been healthier for her well-being but also for our relationship because then she’s not wearing a “patient” hat and I’m not wearing a “therapist” hat when we talk. Also, I’m not a therapist! If you’re reading this, it’s likely that your spouse, your partner, your adult children, your friends, your roommate, your family, your coworkers, etc. aren’t therapists! We’re not truly equipped to do heavy-lifting around emotional labor for extended periods of time. Sometimes going to therapy is to take the strain off your relationships.
Or maybe you’re desperately trying to hold your shit together every day while there’s a pandemic and a revolution and climate change and people who look like you and/or people you love are getting murdered by police or turning up lynched right now in the twenty-first century and…
I fully recognize that having access to therapy is a privilege. I want to put that out there. Even knowing what therapy is is a privilege. Or being from a community or culture that doesn’t vilify seeking help for mental health. There are all kinds of external forces why a person cannot or will not go to therapy.
Many people cannot afford therapy and I get that. I’m going to have some links to low-cost options in the resources below.
There are also plenty of personal reasons why people don’t want to go to therapy. Some people may cling to their mental illness as an identity. Going to therapy may force you to think about who you are without your debilitating anxiety? Who are you without your hoarding? Who are you without your codependency (hiya!)? Who are you without your depression looming over every moment of your existence (hello!)? The idea of being without your comfort-agony can be terrifying, and it can keep people from seeking help.
<image is gif of Skeletor from the original He-Man cartoon. He is standing and looking sad saying, “I don’t like to feel good. I like to feel evil.”>
As I said, having access to therapy is a privilege. And many people cannot afford therapy. I also recognize that there are people who think they can’t afford therapy but actually haven’t taken steps to figure it out (that was me for much of my 20s). I’m going to mention a couple things here, then link out to some resources lists I found, similar to my massive list of anti-racist resources.
One thing you may want to do is find a few therapists that look like they may be a good fit for you (fact: you may have to see a few different therapists to find the right one for you) and then ask if they offer a sliding scale. Or if they have any pro-bono slots. Or if they have a different price if you pay cash. Or perhaps, if you want to cut down on costs, maybe go every other week instead of once a week. There are some therapists that will work with you to get you the help you need. But you have to actually try.
<gif of the Dowager Countess from Downton Abbey with the quote, “Don’t be defeatist, dear. It’s very middle-class.”>
All this can be very overwhelming! If you want to get help, maybe ask a trusted friend or family member to be an accountability buddy and to hold your hand through it. It’s okay to want and ask for support.
First of all, if you or someone you know are in crisis or thinking of harming yourself or someone else, there are some crisis numbers you can call:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
Trans Lifeline: 1-877-565-8860
Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN): 1-800-656-4673
The Steve Fund (support for young people of color): Text “STEVE” to 741741
Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255; press 1
Let’s get to those links!
How Do I Know if I Need Therapy from the American Psychological Association
8 Signs It’s Time to See a Therapist from GoodTherapy.org
Psychology Today has some Therapy Basics that talk about things like “What is therapy?,” “Therapy Types,” and “Your First Therapy Session,” in ways that are easy to understand.
Psychology Today also has a great Find A Therapist page. After you pop in your zip code, you can filter by insurance type, issue, age, faith, ethnicity, and more. Unfortunately, the sexuality filter and the gender filter leave a much to be desired.
BetterHelp and Talkspace are teletherapy that, while still pricey, are a fraction of the cost of many out-of-pocket independent therapists. They also have messaging components and other features that aren’t necessarily available in a “classic” therapy situation.
Open Path Collective serves folks who lack health insurance or whose health insurance doesn’t provide adequate mental health benefits. After a one-time membership fee of $59, you can see a therapist in their network for $30 - $60 per session for an individual.
7 Ways to Seek Therapy Without Breaking the Bank from the Anxiety & Depression Association of America
What to do When You Can’t Afford Therapy; this article has some helpful advice, especially around talking to the potential therapist about cost
What to Do When You Can’t Afford Therapy; a different list than the one in #11 that has some interesting options such as books, podcasts, and videos. As with everything, your mileage may vary.
18 Black Therapists & Mental Health Experts To Follow On Instagram; not gonna lie, some of the therapists I follow on IG have definitely added to my life.
Therapy for Every Budget: How to Access It; this page offers a few resources at every dollar level
Finding a Mental Health Professional; this is a super helpful list of things to ask and look for!
How To Find Affordable Therapy Or Counseling; this page mentions some stuff mentioned in the links above and a few different things as well
If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area like I am, here is a specific list of sliding-scale therapy resources. A quick Google search may turn up one in your area.
7 Ways to Find an Actually Affordable Therapist; this page mentions some stuff mentioned in the links above and a few different things as well, like asking your insurer to send a list of in-network therapists
This Vice article not only has tips on how to find an affordable therapist, but also talks about things like what if you hate your therapist? Or will your job know you’re going to therapy?
This list is not exhaustive. My hope is that it will give you a few starting points, either to think about therapy for yourself or to start some hard discussions with loved ones. Or you could not-so-conspicuously forward this as well and try to let it do the work for you.
<image is an illustration of a prize ribbon with the words, “Asking for help is an act of courage.”>
That’s it for this week! If you enjoy this newsletter, feel free to subscribe, forward it to a friend, and/or give me a tip!