When we feel ill, we usually try to cope on our own. We might go to bed early or change our behavior in ways that we think might help. We might even tell friends and family about our symptoms to see if they have any helpful advice. If the problem doesn’t get better, we call to make an appointment with our medical provider.
We are living in stressful times. Many of the stresses we are dealing with are unexpected and unavoidable. They can build up and become difficult to manage. Coping with emotional distress may mean getting some sleep, having a healthy meal, getting some exercise, or chatting with a supportive friend or family member. While these are good initial steps, we can’t expect that we will always have, or be aware of, the strategies that we need to cope. Our friends and family are not always capable of being the listeners we need. The average person is not a mental health professional. You are not expected to know exactly what to do to manage your stress, anxiety, or depression. So be patient with yourself. If you’ve tried to resolve emotional discomfort on your own without success, it’s time to get help from a professional.
Just like a medical provider, a therapist will listen to you. Talking about your thoughts and feelings and the ways you have tried to resolve the discomfort on your own can often make you feel better. Simply giving voice to your worries or struggles can be very helpful, in and of itself. It feels good to be heard and know that someone wants to help. You should feel as if it is a judgement-free zone and that you can be completely honest.
While a medical provider may recommend a behavior change or medication, a therapist is more likely to help you see your situation from a different point of view. Through conversation, they can help you get to the root of the issue, identify potential solutions, set goals and eventually overcome emotional challenges. Therapy can be solution-focused. If you want to feel less anxious when talking to new people or learn how to manage your anger better – let your therapist know and that can be the focus of your sessions.
Just like a medical appointment, therapy sessions are not always comfortable or pleasant. Painful feelings or experiences might come up. These are important things to get out there – when you are ready. You should feel as if your therapist is guiding you gently through these situations in a reassuring way and that you can be honest with them about how it is making you feel.
Just like you don’t need to have a disease to benefit from medical care, you don’t have to be diagnosed with a mental health disorder to benefit from therapy. Many people seek counseling for help with everyday concerns: excessive worry, relationship problems, job stress, or self-doubt, for example. Others turn to therapy during difficult times, such as a divorce. Therapists help people build positive connections and navigate the path forward.
There are many different types of therapists, including licensed professional counselors (LPC or LMHC), licensed clinical social workers (LICSW), psychologists (PsyD or PhD), licensed alcohol and drug counselors (LADC) and others. You can ask your primary care provider for a referral, check with your insurance company for a list of therapists in your area, or ask family and friends. Locally, United Counseling Service is a great resource for mental health services. Call 802-442-5491 and ask to speak with Universal Access.
With the help of a therapist, you will have some help in discovering, exploring, and overcoming your challenges. Ultimately, with the help of a therapist, you will be stronger and more self-aware and able to experience all of the good life has to offer.
United Counseling Service (UCS) is a private, non-profit community mental health center that has been an essential part of Bennington County’s integrated healthcare system since 1958. The organization has been designated as a Center of Excellent by Vermont Care Partners. UCS promotes healthy lifestyles through all its programs and offers care at 15 different facilities, including two primary outpatient facilities in Bennington and Manchester. UCS provides outpatient counseling and addiction services, emergency mental health services, extensive rehabilitation services, home and school-based services, employment services for people recovering from mental illness or with developmental disabilities, and early childhood services. For more information visit www.ucsvt.org.
Rachel Darby, PMHNP-BC is a Nurse Practitioner at United Counseling Service.