Celebrating 1.5 years in therapy

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On July 18, 2020, I sent the following email to a stranger whom I’d only met for an hour on video chat: “Confirming if we have an appointment at 11am today? Would you be able to send me the link to join?” Two minutes later, I got the response: “Hi Brielle, Yes, we have an appointment at 11am today. Here’s the link.” And thus began one of the most transformative relationships of my life.

This is a personal finance blog, but so far I’ve focused more on the “finance” side of things rather than the “personal”. This post will be different. But I figure, since this blog does have the name “checkbook” in it, maybe I had best address the costs of therapy. For me, going to therapy was not a financial burden, because my employer covered the cost. I had always wanted to give counselling or therapy a try, and when I found out one of our work perks was a mental health benefit, there was no longer a reason to say no. I understand some employers may be less than generous when it comes to health plans covering the costs of seeing a psychotherapist, but a lot of therapists offer a sliding scale to hopefully bridge that gap.

Why did I want to see a therapist? I remember hearing a podcast with Chelsea Handler once where she said (and I’m paraphrasing since I listened to this a while ago), “I have so many problems that I don’t want to burden my friends and family with. If I can pay someone to have to listen to my problems, that eases my guilt in wanting to say them out loud in the first place.” Since I’ve become an adult, I’ve grown increasingly aware of the toll emotional labour takes on people, and if I can pay someone to help me with the heavy lifting so that I can be a better version of myself for my friends and family, wouldn’t that be the best for everyone involved?

Finding my therapist wasn’t a straightforward journey. At first, I tried the same method I used to find hairdressers; inputting my address into Google and then using the Search Nearby function. This came up with a few options, but none of the therapists were taking on patients. I also didn’t want to feel like I was being pushed at whoever was available, since I was going to reveal deeply personal parts of myself. So I forgot about therapy for a while. One day, out of the blue, an old acquaintance reached out to catch up. She was thinking of starting a new career as a life coach, and so had access to some mental health networks she helped me to post in to find a therapist. I was mostly looking for someone who understood my culture and could relate to familial issues, and while Google didn’t do a great job finding me results, it turned out therapy Facebook groups did a great job. I had a consultation with a therapist (a one-hour session where we talked about what I wanted to work on and what her approach was), and we were off to the races. More than a year and a half later, we are still meeting regularly, although we’ve eased down from weekly sessions to bi- and sometimes tri-weekly.

Some of the greatest takeaways I’ve had in therapy are:

  1. You can use physical cues to ease mental anxiety.
  2. The best way to have others see your point of view is to begin by validating them.
  3. Hobbies are important.
  4. Boundaries are equally important.
  5. Things are rarely as bad as they seem in the moment.

I don’t keep a diary anymore, but as I was writing this post, I flipped back through my OneNotes file for therapy and the little jot notes I had put down both before and during my sessions gave me the feeling of reading an old diary entry. I’m not sure how long I will continue with therapy – there are some sessions where I feel like I’ve “graduated” and others where I feel I’ve still got lots to learn – but if I were asked if therapy were a good investment, I think I’d say that if there ever were a way to buy yourself and your loved ones peace and happiness, this is it.

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