Since classes started this year, I have started experiencing a lot of anxiety for the first time in my life. I am considering going to see a therapist, but I’m really nervous about it because I’ve never seen one before, and as far as I know, none of my friends or family have either. I also feel guilty going to one because most of my anxiety is school-related, and hasn’t persisted my whole life. I know a lot of people have diagnosed illnesses, so I don’t feel as though I’ve struggled as much as other people and worry that I don’t have a ‘real’ reason to see a therapist. Is there a way I can work through this on my own, or is it worth trying to see a professional?
Thinking About Therapy (TAT)
You’re super brave for writing in—I know what it is like to feel lost among anxious thoughts, and coming to terms with the idea of seeing a therapist can be difficult.
First of all, know that the only person who can determine what merits going to see a therapist is you. Trust yourself and try to prioritize your needs without worrying about what other people may find valid. If you need a measurable sign that you’d benefit from seeing a therapist, consider whether you feel your anxiety is negatively impacting your daily life and ability to achieve your goals. If so, it’s definitely worth seeking professional help if you can afford it. You don’t have to reach a certain threshold of anxiety or depression before seeing a therapist; they are there to help with any situation.
I know the process of finding the right therapist can be very overwhelming, but I think the first step you can take is to think about what kind of support you would benefit from the most. What type of person would you be most comfortable opening up to? Consider age, gender, and personality while searching for your match. Additionally, there are a few different styles and approaches to therapy, like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, a directive approach that focuses on identifying and ending detrimental behaviours, and Humanistic therapy, a more discussion-based approach that focuses on working toward personal growth. I would recommend doing some research on the differences between these methods to choose the one from which you would benefit the most. If you try out a therapy session and don’t feel comfortable with your therapist, they might just not be the right match for you. The good news is, there are plenty of other skilled professionals in Montreal who you can go to instead; please don’t give up on therapy if you don’t like it after just one visit.
With regards to whether you should approach your friends and family about how you’re feeling, know that friends who are worthwhile will not judge you for prioritizing your mental health. While you certainly don’t have to share this part of your life with any of your friends if you don’t want to, it can be really beneficial to have a sturdy support system outside of your therapist, and confiding in your friends will only strengthen these bonds.
However, there are many different types of friendships, and it’s okay to have friends that you don’t feel quite comfortable enough with to have these discussions. In the event that you do share your feelings with a friend and only receive judgmental comments in return, it may not be because they are a bad friend per se. The reality of our society is that mental illnesses are still relatively stigmatized and often go undiscussed. Your friend has probably just internalized the stigma around going to therapy, and would only benefit from talking about it more with you. Ultimately, no matter what your friends or family say, do what you feel is best for you, even if it is nerve-wracking.
Though taking the first few steps toward seeing a therapist can be daunting, remember that there is tremendous strength in asking for help. No matter what type of support you choose to seek, know that you will be able to get through this and that there are many resources available to you to help along the way.
Psychology Today is a great resource to research different therapists that are available near you. If you’re looking for a therapist on campus, The McGill Mental Health Hub is an excellent way to discover the many different resources available. Please don’t forget that if you feel that you are in immediate danger, make sure to call 9-1-1 or, if you’re on campus, Campus Security at 514-398-3000. The McGill Nightline is another option in less urgent cases and can be reached at 514-398-6246. Outside of McGill, the Quebec Suicide Hotline also offers 24-hour support to those in crisis situations.