Connecting to a mental health therapist on or off the Trail.
Mental health counseling has come a long way since Freud. Unlike the psychoanalytic therapists in the old days, this therapist is looking at his client. Freud sat behind his patients smoking cigarettes. Eye contact wasn’t part of the psychoanalytic process at that time in history. The therapist was considered a blank slate or sounding board. After the client talked and talked to the therapist behind their head, they’d finally hear, “well, let me tell you what I think.” The therapist interpreted what the client told them about their lives and current struggles. Talk therapy is still popular and works for many people. Times have changed, and so has mental health care counseling.
The blank slate approach doesn’t create a safe space for self-disclosure for many of us. I think it helps to know that our therapists suffer from the same “human condition.” That doesn’t mean I need to know everything about my therapist’s personal life, but I want to know they have experienced stressors and other traumatic life events. A relationship with a therapist is unique. It’s the most essential part of the therapy experience. We want to feel safe, understood and, at the same time, challenged.
Turning the mirror towards ourselves and looking at how we show up in our lives is hard. Finding the right therapist to facilitate your journey is vital.
Before you choose a therapist, do some investigating. What kind of therapy do they practice? What type of issues does the therapist typically treat?
Then, meet with a couple of therapists you’ve reviewed online. The client-therapist relationship is the key to a successful therapy experience. Connecting with someone you trust and feel safe with is where it all starts. Once that connection is established, the work begins.
What does it mean to be emotionally well? It means functioning in and interacting with the world. Can you carry on day after day, interacting with others while at the same time dealing with stress, conflict, or problems? Here are some additional questions to ask yourself about your mental health.
- Can you make and maintain relationships with your peers?
- Are you functioning well and feeling satisfied with your work or school performance?
- Can you be humorous?
- Are you able to adapt and change when necessary?
- Do you like yourself?
- Can you identify your strengths and weaknesses?
- Can you deal with conflict?
- Do you have a variety of coping strategies to draw on when you’re stressed?
- Can you accept responsibility for your actions?
- Can you problem-solve?
- Are you able to reason and think clearly?
- Do you have insight into what’s happening to you or around you?
- Are you able to make judgments about your choices and what is best for a situation?
- Have you contemplated questions about the purpose of life?
- Do you have self-control over your emotions and behavior?
Mental wellness is a dynamic process, just like our physical health. We all move in and out and along a continuum of both mental and physical wellness. Accessing support for our emotional health is becoming more acceptable. It’s about time, wouldn’t you say? The adage, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps”, is just that, outdated thinking. Trailtalk hopes everyone will seek out emotional support when they need it. That is taking action and responsibility for our life journey.
Peace and good health to you and yours, The Emotional Sherpa.