As COVID-19 regulations begin to relax in the United States, it’s clear we’ve all coped with the pandemic differently. We’re here to remind you that all of your emotions are valid, even if they don’t feel “right” or you wish things were better. Taking care of your mental health is vital for all humans living in this broken, beautiful world.
Part of restoring your mental health can be going to counseling, and with many therapists providing virtual counseling, it’s never been easier to get the help you need.
As you reflect on your own mental health journey, here are five questions that can hopefully help you discern if therapy is right for you:
1. Why should I be concerned about my mental health?
Your mental health, physical health, and even spiritual health are all intertwined. You might feel sick to your stomach before a job interview because you’re nervous. Maybe you hardly sleep because your anxious thoughts keep you awake, or maybe you sleep too much because you have no motivation to do your favorite things.
While treating the physical side effects could help you get through the day, a holistic approach to health also means treating the source of the pain or discomfort, which will ultimately improve your life.
2. Is it okay to go to therapy if I haven’t experienced a traumatic event?
“Therapy is for everyone,” says Cristina Plaza Ruiz, licensed marriage and family therapist and adjunct assistant professor at Bethel Seminary. She elaborates, saying that coping with a life crisis is a great reason to go to therapy, but not the only one.
Some folks don’t understand that their households, work environments, or personal relationships—while seen as normal from their point of view—may not be healthy for them. Individuals hoping to make sense of their personal narratives, determine what aspects of their lives are more harmful than helpful, and break patterns of behavior would all benefit from counseling.
Additionally, God has designed humans to be relational beings. While we can be hurt in the context of relationships, we heal through establishing healthy relationships as well. Going to therapy will help you build a healthy relationship with a counselor—creating a foundation for you to begin healing or changing your life.
3. Is teletherapy effective?
There are benefits to both teletherapy and in-person therapy, and it’s really up to you to decide which you’d like to pursue.
Teletherapy has proven great for children and adolescents who have grown up in the era of technology and would rather not wait in a lobby. Teletherapy is also ideal for those who do not have reliable transportation or for those who don’t like to drive during certain weather conditions.
In-person therapy is beneficial for group sessions as the therapist can see everyone in the room and identify everyone’s body language in real time. Sessions in-person are also better for individuals who need an interpreter and for those who can’t download a HIPPA approved app.
4. How do I know it’s the right time to go to therapy?
Plaza Ruiz says that on average, most people wait three years between recognizing a need for help and actually going to therapy. Why? Because they’re functioning. However, your life should be more than checking off your daily tasks. Don’t ask yourself if you’re functioning; rather, ask yourself how well you’re functioning—if you’re consistently fulfilled at the end of the day or drained.
Other questions to ask yourself to determine if it’s time to go to therapy: Am I functioning at the expense of something else (like sleep, time with family, or eating healthy)? How long have I been wrestling with [fill in the blank]? Am I trying the same thing and expecting different results? Do I like myself? And if you don’t like those answers, it might be time for you to see someone.
5. I’ve decided I should go to therapy. What are the next steps?
While making a counseling appointment might seem like a monumental task, it can be more manageable to break it down to simple steps. First decide what kind of therapist or therapy you’re looking for. Would you like to see a male or female therapist? A person of faith? Someone from a BIPOC community? A counselor rooted in a particular specialty—like PTSD or eating disorders? Do you want teletherapy or in-person counseling?
Once you determine what you want, the next step is as easy as entering your preferences online. If you have health insurance, make sure the provider is someone in-network so your insurance can cover the bulk of the payment.
If you’re a university student, look into your college’s counseling services for therapy during the school year. (Bethel’s counseling services are free to Bethel students!) If you live in Minnesota, you can visit the Walk-In Counseling Center online for free remote counseling. They also have counselors who speak Spanish and Hmong if that is helpful for you.
Cristina Plaza Ruiz, marriage and family therapist and adjunct assistant professor at Bethel Seminary, contributed to this blog post. Bethel’s counseling and therapy programs prepare students to become counselors who provide meaningful mental health care with compassion and integrity. With its specialty area of clinical mental health counseling, this program provides students the skills to practice mental health in the diverse and changing communities in which they’ll serve.