What do you do when you feel anxious or depressed?
All of us have days where we feel low, anxious, worried or just not ourselves. Some of us have gone through extreme negative phases in our lives. It could have been triggered because of a break up, fight with a friend, death of a loved one or any other reason close to our heart. Most of us have learnt to cope with these phases on our own and we have been supported by our friends and family as well. But sometimes, nothing really seems to help and that’s when you think about going to a shrink. But that decision in itself is a tough one. The first thought that comes to our mind is what will other people say or think. They might perceive me as a mad person if they get to know that I am seeing a therapist. I wouldn’t deny that there is a lot of stigmas attached to seeking help for our mental health issues. If we get a fever, it is normal for people to recommend us to a doctor. But if we complain of unexplained sadness, we are usually advised to cure it on our own.
Maintaining a Healthy Mind: Mental Health Exercises
So today, if I tell you that I have gone for regular therapy for the past one year, you will definitely think that there is something wrong with me. But if I tell you that this has helped me in coping with daily life stresses and has given me a lot of insights about the repetitive maladaptive patterns in my life, you might think that going for therapy does cure one’s problems. Now if I tell you that I still have a lot of work to do by my own to resolve the mental health issues I face in my life, you might think that going for therapy is completely useless. But tell me something, does taking medicine for fever once gets rid of that problem forever? No, it doesn’t. In fact, if one doesn’t constantly look after their physical health through regular exercise, a healthy diet and regular check-ups, one’s physical health will definitely deteriorate. And we can say that same for our mental health. To have a healthy mind, one needs to exercise it and expose its new experiences. And that’s where therapy comes in. It provides the required amount of dosage to keep ourselves mentally healthy.
Finding a good therapist
Now if you agree to see a therapist despite the prevalent stigma, you will face the issue of finding a good therapist in the first place. In our country, there are no established standards for mental health professionals, and hence, in reality, any person can claim to be a counsellor/therapist and start their practice. Hence, while doing your research, one needs to carefully assess the educational background and experience of the mental health professional. Even if that’s satisfactory, one needs to find someone who they click with and that’s something you can know only in one or two sessions. I changed my therapist four times and I wouldn’t deny that the process of finding one was frustrating. Now it seems completely worth it because it made me realize that one needs to invest time and energy in order to find the best companion for one’s mental health. During my training in college, I often wondered how I can change myself to be the best therapist for my clients. But over the course of my training, I realized that I can be my best only by being myself. As a therapist, one needs to accept that not all clients are meant for you, and I think the same applies to the latter. Therapist-client relationship is a unique one and hence it takes some effort to find the perfect match.
Therapy with Furry Companions
Now, can you imagine how you would feel cuddling with a furry companion at a therapist’s office? Do you think it will help in reducing your anxiety and make you talk more freely to your therapist? Do you think it will change your perception of your therapist? I can confidently predict that for most animal lovers, the answer is a definite yes. Well, that’s why these furry companions make perfect co-therapists and when a therapist uses a therapy animal in their therapeutic setting, it is known as animal-assisted psychotherapy. Well, as a therapist, I feel being around my furry companion makes me feel more relaxed and even more competent about being with my client. I also think that it creates a more relaxing environment for both the client and myself. The presence of therapy animal also helps in drawing parallels and metaphors in relation to the animal’s life. So there are both physiological (decrease in blood pressure and increase in good hormones) and psychological benefits of having a therapy animal in a session. But what if one is scared of animals or sceptical about their use in therapy? In that case, one should initially opt for regular therapy and if the client feels comfortable at a later stage, the therapy animal can be incorporated in sessions gradually. A therapist will include a therapy animal in their session only if it benefits the client. If you are an animal lover and also seeking a therapist, you should definitely opt for animal-assisted psychotherapy sessions.