4 women and 1 man in black and white with an illustrated background
Therapy is a varied experience; no two accounts are the same. Illustration by (c) Reset Fest Inc, Canada.

Mental Health

Comparing Notes: People Tell Us What They’re Talking About in Therapy

'It’s life-changing just knowing you have the support that you need.'

While the conversation around therapy is gaining momentum, there is still a long way to go in terms of acceptance. The stigma around vulnerability and asking for help can make people uncertain about what to expect while seeking counseling. Therapy isn’t always straightforward or predictable. Stepping away from common stereotypes, people from different cultures and professions told us about discussing grief, learning to manage stress and being heard without judgment. Here are their experiences. 

Raleigh Dale, Freelance Creative Professional; Nashville, Tennessee

Raleigh Dale is sitting on a red couch with her head leaning on her temple. There are books in the background.

Dale has been discussing grief with her therapist and is learning to vent in a safe space. Photo courtesy: Raleigh Dale

“My therapist and I have been talking a lot about grief lately, about its nonlinear nature, about how it manifests in various different ways. Earlier this year, my maternal grandparents passed away.

Diving into grief with my therapist has made all the difference in the world [in terms of] how I relate to their death.

They played a valuable parental role in my life and that loss has been felt incredibly deeply. It has changed the lens through which I view the world, and I have struggled to really consider what my life looks like without them. They were my parents. Seems like you’d have a ton of time to prepare for that, but somehow it still creeps up on you.

I am seeing it transform me in healthy, positive ways instead of becoming hyper-focused on all the ways in which my life could be negatively affected. It’s given me a safe place to talk about them, to reflect on the lessons they taught me, to remember them and grieve them openly, candidly.”

Siddharth Dani, Student; Boston, Massachusetts

Siddharth Dani is standing outside by an old building with his arms crossed against his chest.

Dani began therapy while he was going through a breakup and realized his anxiety had reached an all-time high. Photo courtesy: Siddharth Dani

“I recently started my therapy over the summer, and I have been going for weekly sessions. I usually start talking about my week, and that leads to a discussion about my issues with anxiety, stress management, depression, dependency issues, and occasionally, discussing new coping mechanisms.

“[With therapy] I have more clarity of thought and I deal with my anxiety and panic attacks better.”

It is honestly up to you [when it comes to] finding a therapist [who] is the right fit for you. They are a rare breed. I contacted a center run by the psychology department at my college and I was fortunate to have connected well with my first practitioner.

It has helped put things in perspective, and understand myself. At the end of the day, getting an outsider’s perspective enables you to understand your problems and rationalize them.”

Julia Hunt, Youth Worker; Gold Coast, Queensland

Julia is standing on the road smiling.

Having experienced anxiety all her life, Hunt sought help in a bid to create a healthier life for herself. Photo courtesy: Julia Hunt

“I’ve experienced anxiety my whole life, and never received proper help and support for it until now that I’m in my 20s. By the time I finally found a psychologist I loved [after going to see multiple others that I hadn’t clicked with], I was overwhelmed and was using negative coping mechanisms just to get through my days and nights. My anxiety was in overdrive and I needed support — I’m so grateful I reached out to get it.

Also read: Why Therapy for People With Disabilities and Special Needs Requires a Makeover

[I’m currently talking about] my next steps in life, how I’ve changed in the past couple of years and what kind of life is more in line with this new person. We’re encouraging actions and thought patterns that will help me gain more confidence, set bigger goals and follow through on them. It’s about learning to trust and back myself. But I’m going to add here — the best thing I’ve ever talked about in therapy historically has been my obsessive compulsive disorder and the rituals that come with it.

Knowing I have someone to talk to who isn’t biased, who isn’t judgmental, and who is trained to help me practice self-compassion is incredibly helpful. It’s life-changing just knowing you have the support that you need.

Jennifer Draper, Senior HR Consultant; New York City, New York

Jennifer Draper is looking into the camera

Therapy gave Draper healthy coping mechanisms which grew her self-confidence. Photo courtesy: Jennifer Draper

“I’ve been struggling with overwhelming anxiety which was causing me to get angry for no reason. I finally decided to seek the help I’ve been needing from a professional. And I’m so happy I did! We are currently discussing my relationship with my family — my two older brothers specifically.

“The best part about therapy is that you are in a safe space.”

I went through some trauma, my oldest brother sexually assaulted me when I was just 5-years-old, soon after he moved out and my other brother has been addicted to drugs since he was 15. Despite being 26 and having gone through a lot, this is the first time I’ve sought help. 

Your therapist doesn’t know any of these people you are talking about and it provides a sense of security. Having someone listen to me, uninterrupted, for 45 minutes is great!”

Jaymeann Jones, Tour Guide at Disneyland; Anaheim, California

Jaymeann Jones is looking towards her left and is wearing Mickey ears.

Jones’ therapist helped her work through her anxiety and deep-rooted fears. Photo courtesy: Jaymeann Jones

“I had been holding it [going to therapy] off for a while, I had been diagnosed with anxiety and depression in 2015, but stopped therapy in early 2016. I watched my life and myself start to collapse. I didn’t see a purpose anymore, and had been hurting so much that I started inflicting my behaviors onto others and developed unhealthy coping mechanisms. Several things led me to make the final decision to go to therapy. My best friend looked me in the eye one day and told me she loves me so much, but I’m hurting, she can see it, and it hurts her to see it. And it finally hit me: I was not anywhere close to where I wanted to be. Weirdly enough, watching Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was a major reason I knew I needed help. I identified very strongly with the main character and watching her grow and take control of her life made me want to do it too. I ended up being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder just like she was.

[Currently, in therapy I am talking about] how my anxieties and fears of abandonment are old wounds that are being reopened, reprocessing trauma using the method of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). This brings [traumatic] memories that are in my subconscious mind to my conscious mind so they can be reprocessed, analyzed, and become less triggering, allowing myself to ride the wave of emotions, and to feel my emotions without judgment. Each week is different!”

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Comparing Notes: People Tell Us What They’re Talking About in Therapy