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I’ve been thinking about going to see a psychologist. To be honest, I’m not sure how comfortable I am with the idea. I am not great at sharing stuff (even writing this letter is kind of tough for me). I don’t know how I’ll feel talking to someone who I have to pay to listen to me. And I don’t want to feel like I “need” to go to a psychologist if that makes sense. I don’t want to feel crazy or weak.
But I do kind of think that it might help me to talk to a psychologist sometimes. Can you tell me a bit about what going to a psychologist is like, and how I can get used to talking to one?
For a lot of Americans, going to a psychologist can be a little scary. Your letter hits on a few of the reasons why. Unfortunately, addressing mental health needs still carries a stigma in our society, and far too few of us actually seek the treatment we need. As few as one out of three people who need treatment seek it out, and it shouldn’t be that way.
You wouldn’t judge someone for having a physical illness. More to the point, you wouldn’t judge yourself for having a physical illness. So why would you criticize yourself for having a mental health issue? Mental health issues are not things to “blame” on ourselves or others. They can be large or small. And we can care for our mental health proactively just as we can care for our physical health in that way.
The stigma surrounding mental health issues is, fortunately, beginning to fade away. That’s progress, but there are still obstacles to overcome, as you’re experiencing. You should fight through the stigma and get yourself the mental healthcare you need and deserve.
Your other concern is with talking to the psychologist. It can be tough to share and open up, but a good psychologist can make it a whole lot easier. Yes, a psychologist is doing his or her job when they talk to you, but that’s part of the point. Just as you would share personal health issues with a doctor that you wouldn’t tell your friends, you’ll be telling your psychologist things that you wouldn’t share in a different environment. The fact that the psychologist is a paid professional is important, and you can embrace that as a way to get over your concerns about opening up. Think of yourself as describing symptoms and ailments, just as you would with your physical health.
And, of course, you can always change psychologists. Although you should try to avoid disrupting your routine once you’ve found one that you like, you can certainly try one or two before deciding if a given psychologist is the person that you want to speak with regularly.
To find a good psychologist, start by chatting with friends, reading online reviews, and looking at psychologists’ professional websites. You can also talk to your primary care physician, who may be able to recommend and refer you to a particular psychologist or practice. Keep in mind that you could also opt to visit a psychiatrist. There are some differences between psychiatrists and psychologists: psychiatrists are medical doctors, and are usually more focused on medication and direct forms of treatment rather than talk therapy. However, many psychiatrists do offer talk therapy, and psychiatrists and psychologists sometimes work together in practices that offer both medication and talk therapy.
You can and should make regular visits to a psychologist a part of your healthy lifestyle, explains an expert psychologist DC. Caring proactively for your mental health just makes sense, and we should make mental healthcare more of a priority in our lives. Mental health therapies like talk therapy can help just about anyone, not just people with serious mental health issues. You can think of a regular visit to your psychologist as a check-up — it’s maintenance, not an emergency. You wouldn’t go long periods of time without seeing your doctor or exercising, so why would you ever neglect your mental health in that way?
It’s natural to feel a little apprehensive about a new step like this, but we urge you to push past the stigma and embrace the role a psychologist can play in your life and healthy routines. Your mind and body will thank you.
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