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Mental Health Therapy, Stigma, How It Works, and What to Expect

INTRODUCTION
Some will declare that this should not be written, for therapy is a very private matter and you don’t talk about it.

That’s how people die.

While I am Austic, and therefore willing to write about things the average person may consider inappropriate, I do have boundaries for this particular piece. That is, I will not be trauma dumping. In other words, neither the page nor you will become my therapist.

Today, I will be writing about therapy, what it is, how it works, the stigma associated with attending therapy, and more.

Let’s gooooooooo!!!


MY HISTORY WITH THERAPY
I first went to a therapist with my ex-wife, for couples counseling. It didn’t go well. If you’re in couples therapy, and the other person doesn’t take it seriously, then there is no hope and it’s time to bail.

Signs of not taking it seriously include things like calling at the last minute to cancel the appointment because “everything is fine,” and then calling their answering service at 2:30am because something dramatically horrible just happened, and you have to squeeze us into your schedule on an emergency basis IMMEDIATELY.

We had more emergencies than appointments.

Freedom!

I would go to individual therapy for the first time in 1993, after a carjacking incident, where the guy put the gun to my head, and pulled the trigger, but it went off later. If nothing else, an experience like this will lead you to therapy.

This therapist specialized in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD].

The next time I went was in mid-2008, when things were getting wild at MySpace. I was eating a poor diet of breads and pasta, and was probably diabetic at the time, but undiagnosed. I felt like I was losing my mind and going crazy, and I believed my co-workers were out to get me.

The session was through the EAP, which provides six sessions. That’s not enough to make any real progress. We concluded with the therapist saying that, indeed, he also believed my co-workers were out to get me, and that I should find new employment immediately.

He was right.

I saw another therapist in 2017, where I was tested and it was determined that I have High-Functioning Autism [ASD] and Major Depressive Disorder [MDD]. This therapy and therapist were helpful with regard to diagnosis. But we had a bit of a falling out, after I felt like he was being dishonest with me, and I suspected some gaslighting.

It is VERY possible to get a bad therapist, or one with whom you don’t connect. That’s when you try to find another one.

Finally, I started my recent therapy in late 2020, when my MDD was out of control and I was feeling like I might not want to live much longer. We’ve been having great success with my MDD and ASD.

These things will never, ever be cured. However, they must be dealt with professionally. The type of therapy I am currently involved with is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT. Some call it “talking therapy” as well.

It is important to note that I am not a therapist or a professional. I just have lots of experience with therapy. I’ve made some mistakes, and maybe I can help others who encounter these mistakes.

Sometimes, these mistakes can lead to deadly consequences for the person seeking therapy, when they need it and then either do not get it, or they receive poor therapy.


WHAT IS THERAPY?
The type of therapy I will be covering is mental health therapy. This is a person with whom you speak, typically for one hour, on a scheduled weekly basis. The therapist will ask you questions about things you say and actively talk with you about these things you’ve said.


HOW THERAPY WORKS
For me, therapy starts a few days before the session. This is where I will write down some notes on things that I’d like to talk about.

In therapy, I run the risk of getting stuck on one topic, and I’ll end up using the entire hour for that, while forgetting about something else important I wanted to cover.

I’ll usually get the bad things out of the way first, before ending the session on a good note with my positivity report.

We spend the final few minutes talking about plans for the week, music, or even analysis of Stranger Things.

The reason why I get the bad things out of the way first is in case these things will take more work. We can skip the ending pleasantries and instead determine what I should consider for the week ahead, before the next session.

My therapy sessions are via video, thanks to efforts to keep afloat during the pandemic. We’ve not ever met in-person, and probably never will. That’s okay.

How therapy works is it gets you talking about things, and as you talk, you can be guided into a place where you are able to “re-frame” a situation so that you’re not looking at it through a fog of depression, for example.


WHAT TO EXPECT
Nothing is solved in one session. Do not expect the first appointment to be visibly helpful to you. It’s more to help the therapist understand you and your situation.

The first appointment is typically where the therapist asks you questions, with the goal of determining your own goals, as well as identifying areas where you may need assistance. This includes areas you’ve not yet considered.

Once all of the formalities are out of the way, you can settle into a weekly routine. It is VERY important that the routine be weekly. More about that later.

Sometimes you might feel worse after a therapy session. This is normal, as you’re dredging up painful things, and you will often times re-live or otherwise go through this pain again, on some level. That’s okay. The pain is what tells you that you’re healing.

There is also typically an annual review, which I’ve only learned about in the past few years. When you’re in therapy for over one year, this is what will be done to determine whether or not you need to remain in therapy.

Finally, some therapy groups have administrators who are pressuring their therapist to “graduate” people early, even when they’re not finished or haven’t reached their goals. This is dangerous, and is like rationing insulin.


THINGS TO AVOID AND POTENTIAL RED FLAGS
It might be thought that therapy is where everything goes. The truth is that there are no situations where everything goes. In therapy, what “goes” is talking about anything that will help you.

A bad therapist. One might also believe that all therapists are good at what they do, and are utter professionals. Typically, this is the case, although it is possible to get a bad therapist. This is when you have to stop and go looking for a new one. This can be difficult, especially for those with no insurance, government insurance, or anyone who lives in a rural area where your options are very slim.

Keep an eye out for how you feel about your therapist. If something isn’t quite right, you can try talking about it. You can also quietly look for someone else. Should you find another therapist, you can tell your current one that you don’t feel that things are working out.

Gaslighting. Beware of gaslighting. This is where someone will do or say something, the later deny doing or saying it, and it leaves you feeling like you’re going crazy.

My 2017 therapist was listening to me talk about how I experience the world, where there are TWO sets of rules. One set for everyone else, and a special harsh set, just for me.

He said that he’d like to test me for “something,” and asked if I’d be interested. Then he said, “You don’t LOOK Autistic.”

This is actually a MAJOR red flag, because Autism is NOT something that can be seen. So when I asked him what he meant by it when he said that, he replied with, “I didn’t say that.”

But he did. Things went downhill after this, as can be expected.

Large gaps between sessions. My sessions are typically once per week for one hour, which is expected and optimal. I had my last session yesterday and had to wait two weeks because of holidays. As of now, I’ll have to wait two weeks until my next session, thanks to more holidays.

This will happen no matter where, when there is a holiday season and offices are closed. But a large gap must not be accepted!

A great case of this is the “therapy” that Kaiser Permanente offers. In their program, they offer up one session every SIX WEEKS. This is SO unacceptable that both therapist AND patients marched in protest in front of KP in Los Angeles. The therapists feel that they are not helping anyone, and they are not because once per six weeks does nothing. The patients were protesting that they weren’t being helped appropriately.

I do not yet know what became of that protest.

Regression therapy. This may be called other things, but it’s a case of the therapist talking with you about the past, in an effort to get you to venture into the past. This type of therapy is, unfortunately, popular with psychologists and psychiatrists who are working with adults who were molested as children.

The risk in this type of therapy is that it can implant false memories. It can raise trauma, as well as false trauma. Given how unreliable human memory can be, this can be a very destructive form of therapy that is not reliable in any way at all.

It can also destroy the lives of people who may be innocent.

Instead of seeking answers, it is good to try to deal with those feelings in a more personal and immediate type of way. I have NOT been through therapy for anything like this, so I’d recommend seeking out more info from someone who has.

Finally, if you flat-out question some of the things your therapist is insisting on pushing on you, then it might be a good idea to just leave. I had a girlfriend who was seeing a therapist. The therapist kept telling her that I was an inherently bad person.

She was skeptical of the therapist, but then stopped seeing that therapist after they attempted to bill her for services not covered by the insurance. This was in spite of the fact that she had a SIGNED CONTRACT with the therapist that clearly stated that the patient WILL NOT be billed at any time, ever. She even had to call services to help this therapist with billing, and these calls were the responsibility of the therapist themselves.

That’s called a lack of ethics. Therapists are human, too, and thus subject to all of the failings and darkness that can inspire many.

Do not let any of this keep you from trying. You may find a great therapist on your first try, such as was the case for me with my PTSD therapy. But you may find one who isn’t that great, maybe they’re doing some things wrong, or maybe you just don’t have chemistry with them.

It doesn’t have to be anything dramatic, it just has to be something that gets in the way of your therapy objective(s) that inspires you to find another therapist.


THE STIGMA OF THERAPY
“I couldn’t do it. I don’t know how you can pay a stranger and then talk about personal and private matters.”

This was the response I got from an adult in my life, after telling them that I was going to therapy. This family member is older, and they grew up in a time when therapy was for “crazy” people. Please understand that using “crazy” is not only inappropriate, but it’s also a judgment call.

Stop being judgmental! If you stop being judgmental of others, it might lead you to stop being judgmental of yourself.

The stigma that is attached to therapy is mostly childish, judgmental, and mindless. It’s the idea that if you need therapy, then you are weak.

I get tired of the “weakness” arguments. There are lots of mentally unwell people who love to judge weakness. They put lots of human emotions into a box labeled “Weakness,” and I don’t know why. Here are some of the things that they consider to be weakness:

  • Being kind
  • Helping others
  • Expressing happiness
  • Asking for help
  • Admitting you need help
  • Politeness
  • Being courteous
  • Caring about the well-being of other people, especially when they’re in different tribes from your own.
  • Wanting the best for your neighbors
  • Participating in your community
  • Loving your neighbor

The list goes on, but this is a partial list of what many American adults view as signs of “weakness.”

One of these listed above, admitting you need help, is the FIRST important step to actually getting help. Saying it out loud is a most powerful exercise.

It is NOT weak to ask for help. Do you want to know what is weak?

When a person is weak, they will NOT ask for help and pretend everything is fine. They will shove hard feelings down with food, drugs, or alcohol.

A weak person holds a belief that they do everything themselves, achieve everything themselves, and they don’t need anyone else. This is delusional.

Glasses ON!

A weak person is afraid to cry or show fear, and so they bring in anger and aggression to serve as bodyguards to hide the “weak emotions.”

These people are easy to find. They wear crosses or MAGA hats, and talk obsessively about how “god” Is going to take care of everything. They have to keep telling themselves this several times per day, over and over, to suppress their concerns.

And if you don’t act like them, engage in this masking, and go along with everything they say, then they’ll more than likely want you dead, because your very presence breaks the illusion they need in order to survive.

Weak.

Strength is represented in being brave enough to declare that you need help.

If you struggle and need to feel better about seeking out therapy, you can do yourself a huge favor by stopping with the spreading of this stigma yourself. Don’t believe the hype! Don’t accept it.

You aren’t weak because you need therapy. When you need therapy, the only thing this says about you is that you need therapy. That’s it.

Go get it.

And stop caring about what the world things. It’s mostly morons.


IN THE END
Are YOU currently in therapy, working on something? Are you seeking therapy? Have you had a different experience? If you’re a professional therapist and I was wrong about anything, or if you want to get into more detail about anything, then please feel free to leave a civil comment below.

Your mental health impacts all other aspects of your health, including your physical health and your weight.

True story!

My depression and being fat was a case of a systemic issue where I’d feel more of the depression because of my weight, I’d eat more, get more depressed, eat more, get more depressed, eat more, and the cycle went on and on.

It’s a deep, dark pit of despair, where the walls are wet and slimy, and you can’t even see the light, let alone the opening of the hole.

A ladder would be nice. Something to help you get out.

Therapy is a ladder.

The picture to the right of this text is me during this holiday season in 2018, while visiting my mother.

Mom was kind enough to send me this, as a way to remind me of just how far I’ve come with my weight and mental health issues.

All of my clothes were huge. I was struggling to bend over to pet the dog, so it’s no wonder that I’ve taken to wearing Crocs and slip-ons for the past handful of years.

As I type this, I’m wearing steel-toed boots that tie up. I feel more like I’m ready to take on the day, as opposed to having the sensation that I’m perpetually sleeping in.

Again, I must stress a few things. I am NOT a therapist. Also, NONE of this is about fat-shaming or shunning those who are overweight, or a promotion of fat-phobia. Losing weight doesn’t mean you’re fat-phobic. For me, it means that my depression has less of a handle on me, AND it means that my Type 2 Diabetes is getting closer to being in control.

I mean, just look at these blood-glucose levels from this week, up to today:

For those who may not know, 100-125 is pre-diabetic. 99 and lower is “normal” or healthy. The healthier I get, the healthier I get. Funny how that works.

But I want to use these final words for encouragement for YOU. If you’re judgmental of others because they are fat, then please consider stopping, especially if YOU are fat yourself. Judging yourself doesn’t help you because it makes things worse.

Being judgmental of others is bad, because it inspires you to be self-judgmental. It also achieves nothing. If you are judgmental because it makes you feel better about yourself, then you most definitely need therapy.

Name-calling, shaming, and other 2nd grade playground garbage is not something in which mature adults should be engaging. We see lots of this online, especially in online comments. Why the negativity?

Beating yourself up makes it all worse. I don’t know how many times I can say that until it’s enough. Because I said it to myself for years on end before it finally kicked in and made sense.

Here are some things that worked for me:

  • Cut out unhealthy things, like fast food. A burger on occasion is cool, though.
  • Stop eating things like potatoes, pasta, bread, and starches.
  • Give up the candy, but keep ONE thing for yourself. For me, it was 3 Fun Sized Snickers per day, with a 3 max per day.
  • Eating 5 smaller meals instead of 2-3 bigger meals is better.
  • Chew more, and eat more slowly.
  • Make rules for yourself. I eat NOTHING at my desk, except for my breakfast or carrots. I also do not eat in front of the TV, with the exception of actual meals. NO SNACKS in front of the TV! I also stop eating after 7:00pm.
  • Give up sodas and beer, and drink water. I know, water can get boring. Not for me. Thanks, Autism. Sodas are liquid sugar.

I’m at a stage where I feel relatively bullet-proof. I have no cravings. If I want a burger, then I’ll get one. I just don’t do it every day. If I want a Fun Sized Snickers, then I’ll have one, although I haven’t had one or wanted one in about three weeks or so.

These dietary moves, no doubt, had a MAJOR impact on my mental health and aided my successes in therapy. All of it is connected.

Because of therapy, I have a better relationship with food, others around me, and myself. I had started to wonder if I was ever going to see ANY results, either with my depression or weight. I’m glad that I stuck with it, as it’s finally paying off.

Before, I used eating as a way of attempting to cope. Now, I use therapy.

Therapy has fewer calories.

On a side note, I sold some music gear that I wasn’t using, so that I could get a new wardrobe started. What I’m wearing in this photo is one of the few outfits I’ve gotten. Donations to my PayPal can help with more clothes. I also plan on visiting places like Goodwill to find relatively cheap clothes.

Thank you to everyone who reads and comments. I truly appreciate you being here.


If you like what I write, then please consider sending a one-time donation to me via PayPal. Please use the following link and click SEND to donate, and thank you for reading! https://paypal.me/drumwild

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Published by DrumWild

Writing about drums, music, and philosophy.

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