Even if it’s not what the doctor ordered, seeing a therapist occasionally could be the key to maintaining your mental health.
If someone asked you why you go to the gym, you wouldn’t hesitate to answer that you like to keep in shape, right? Yet when we think of total fitness, we often neglect the mind. After all, you keep your body in shape, so why not your brain too?
Think of a therapist as a personal trainer for the mind. You don’t need to wait until you’re stressed out to start seeing one. In fact, being proactive has a whole host of surprising benfits.
Stronger, not weaker
Seeing a therapist reguarly will make you stronger in the face of adveristy. According to Ryan Howes, a psychologist based in California, “The benefits of therapy extend far beyond periods of crisis. Many people want more than to be ‘not depressed’. They wonder what they can do to be the happiest, most productive, most loving version of themselves.” Think of therapy as a recalibration of your mind that allows it to function at its optimum level.
The likes of Emma Stone, Olivia Munn and Lena Dunham are advocates of going to therapy, crediting their therapists with keeping them mentally healthy.
When asked by Glamour in 2013 what advice she would give to herself in her thirties, Jennifer Aniston responded with, “Go to therapy. Clean up all of the toxins and the noise. Understand who you are. Educate yourself on the self... You can undo a lot of things. If you’re not happy, you can become happy.”
Therapy in Singapore
While there have been improvements over the past few years, there is still a stigma surrounding mental health here. Singapore’s competitive environment leads many to think that they should solve problems on their own rather than seek help, so it can be difficult for people here to consider seeing a therapist.
But Singaporeans should not wait to see a therapist, as doing so regularly could help with regulating stress. “Therapy does not have to be crisis-driven... [it] offers an opportunity to be mindful, reflect and gain insights that you may not have access to otherwise,” says psychologist Anoushka Beh of Abehpsych. In fact, she says therapists see their own therapists “so they can have the space to pause, reflect and learn more with the support of an objective third party.” Ultimately, we should remember that therapy isn’t necessarily about curing anxiety and depression, but keeping your mental health in tip-top shape.
SHOPPING FOR A THERAPIST
1 Think about what motivated you to start seeing a therapist (other than this story, of course). You should find someone who specialises in your situation. For example, if you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, you may want to find a therapist who is an expert at stress management to help you maintain your worklife balance.
2 Next, make sure you feel like you can trust your therapist. Ask your family and friends for referrals and, rather than seeing the same therapist as them, ask their therapist to recommend someone to you. If you aren’t comfortable with asking anyone close to you, take your search to the Internet. The Singapore Psychological Society is a useful resource that allows users to search licensed therapists and view their credentials and specialisations.
3 Before making an appointment, call the therapist. This is to get an idea if you’d be comfortable talking to them. On the first appointment, take note of whether they are active listeners. Do they ask questions that enlighten your selfperception? Are their responses specific to your situation?
4 Trust your gut. If you feel judged or uncomfortable, continue with your search. Remember, you don’t necessarily find the perfect personal trainer on your first go, either.
Images 123RF.com Text Claire Soong.