September 24, 2021 by Peter B. Laird
Ask the Psychiatrist: Counseling Helps You Feel Better Physically, Too
“There are many health benefits of seeking mental health counseling,” says Brien Garcia, a mental health therapist at Baptist Health’s Recovery Village who specializes in substance abuse and family therapy. “Similar to having an annual checkup, mental health counseling can help repair your physical health when you are experiencing symptoms such as depression, anxiety, sadness, crying a lot, gaining or losing weight or having difficulty sleeping.”
Mr. Garcia says that most Individuals who seek mental health counseling want to talk about their depression or anxiety and want to explore their next steps while they figure out their purpose in life and where they’re heading. “Therapy is a good way to improve yourself and expand your horizons,” he says. “It also enables you to learn the management of expression and emotions; improve relationships; navigate family dynamics; and learn coping skills for life.”
Known as the Talking Cure, talking therapy began around the late 1800s to early 1900s, when it was found that talking to someone and allowing the venting process to unfold helped people get better. Meeting with a therapist provides a safe outlet to express yourself freely and honestly.
Mr. Garcia acknowledges there are many misconceptions about therapy, which often prevent people from seeking help when they need it. “In general, we operate on automatic pilot in life and don’t realize what is going on and when things aren’t going well in our life,” he says. “Therapists can recognize the negativity and self-defeating behavior and help move your perspective in a more positive direction.”
Some of the common misconceptions about therapy include:
- “All people in therapy are crazy.”
Truth: Therapy is an opportunity to explore the next step in life and figure out and improve yourself. It’s an opportunity to work on those self-defeating behaviors and change them into a more realistic positive direction.
- “Many people in therapy are schizophrenic and hear voices in their heads that tell them what to do.”
Truth: Schizophrenia affects a small percentage of the population and today can be controlled with a combination of drugs and therapy.
- “Therapists tell you what to do.”
Truth: Therapists do not tell you what to do. They give you a different perspective which enables you to expand your horizons. Therapists guide patients through the process of changing. It is up to you to make the change yourself.
- “Therapy is not confidential.”
Truth: By law, psychotherapists must keep the sessions confidential. We form therapeutic alliances with our patients where we want patients to feel safe and feel good and comfortable about what is being discussed.
- “Psychotherapists prescribe drugs.”
Truth: Psychotherapists cannot prescribe drugs. Only a psychiatrist can prescribe medication.
- “I don’t need therapy; I have friends and family.”
Truth: Having the support of friends and family is very important. Working with a trained professional can give you that next level of conversation using innovative techniques that can help you reach your goals.
- “My problems are not that serious, therefore I don’t need therapy.”
Truth: It may not be a problem, but if you need someone to talk to outside of your personal support group, a therapist can help you in your time of need.
- “If I don’t like my therapist, I’m stuck.”
Truth: Not every therapist is going to be good for you. If you don’t like the therapist you have, feel free to find another one.
- “I don’t like to talk, and I don’t want to talk about that.”
Truth: It’s not uncommon, People get nervous. It’s the therapist’s responsibility to make the client feel comfortable by asking questions such as “what do you like to do?” and not dredge up old stuff. In therapy, you can talk about whatever you want to talk about when you are ready.
There are even more misconceptions, Mr. Garcia says, but people shouldn’t let these or anything else keep them from seeking the help they need.
“There are so many benefits to seeking therapy, not the least of which is that therapists have many skills and hundreds of tools to help you achieve your personal goals,” he says. “You can work on yourself and improve your relationships. You can learn to respond better when you’re upset, develop a clearer mindset, and understand how to express yourself more appropriately when you’re sad or angry.”
Through therapy, he adds, you can learn valuable coping mechanisms that can help you decrease your anxiety and depression, and breathing techniques to reduce panic attacks. “You can also process unfinished business, or your ‘baggage,’ and work with your therapist to resolve those issues.”
Coming to therapy is a great opportunity to get the negative thoughts out of the brain, says Mr. Garcia. “Only when you can recognize your issues – and process them and work on them – can you get better and start taking control of your emotions and your life.”
But therapy takes time and there is no magic bullet, Mr. Garcia cautions. “Therapists must take time to get to know their patients, and patients must invest the time and thought and reflection that therapy requires outside of the actual counseling sessions.”