Treatment options: Therapy and Medication (Mental Health Series Part 10)
Welcome back to this series on mental health. I am thrilled you have joined me. As I mentioned in the first part of this series, I want to talk to you about treatment for mental health. Two options are: therapy or counselling, and medication.
Get Yourself a Good Therapist or Counsellor
Honestly, getting yourself a good therapist is the best thing you could ever do for yourself, and I would tell you that regardless of whether you have an SCI or not. I don’t just say that because I am training to one day become a clinical psychologist, either. I sincerely believe that accessing therapy regularly is essential to one’s well-being, personal growth, and self-awareness.
Many of us live our lives without understanding how our thoughts and feelings impact our behaviour. We are ignorant as to how socialization and our upbringings have impacted who we are and how we behave. Additionally, we are often oblivious about how our SCI, the experience that led to our SCI, and our lives since our injury have impacted our development, emotions, cognitive functioning, and behaviour. Therapy allows us to understand these things about ourselves.
Therapy gives you an environment where you feel safe and comfortable. You get to build a relationship of trust with an educated, neutral observer who allows you to share all aspects of yourself without fear. You have someone who helps you confront, acknowledge, and process your thoughts, emotions, and behaviour. The lessons you learn in therapy you can apply to all areas of your life.
Therapy allows you to comprehensively express yourself with a trained professional in ways you often cannot with your loved ones. You no longer need to filter your thoughts or emotions for social appropriateness or be concerned about the emotional reaction of the individual you are opening up to.
Therapy allows you to alter the way your mind works by enabling you to understand the different ways your brain and lived experience impact your thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. Education and self-reflection are two of the most influential superpowers you can have in life, and therapy, with the right therapist, provides you with that.
I have seen so many different counsellors and therapists since I was young. Some have been awful, and others have saved my life in many ways. Frankly, without therapy, I do not know if I would still be here today. I cannot thank the therapist I have had for the last three years enough for what she has done for me, and I sincerely appreciate her time with me.
A few important things to remember about therapy include:
- Therapy and bettering yourself are a marathon and not a sprint. It takes time and work.
- Not every therapist will work for you. Sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error, and that is okay. Do not let a bad experience with one therapist deter you from accessing therapy. You will find the right one.
- If therapy has not worked for you in the past, you likely did not have the right therapist for you.
- Never be afraid to mention that you do not think your therapist is right for you and ask for someone else.
- You should have the opportunity to decide whether you are more comfortable seeing a therapist of a particular gender and see your preferred gender. Some people do not care about the gender of their therapist, and others do. I personally prefer one who identifies as female, gender nonbinary, or transgender, and that is okay.
- You may want to look for a therapist trained in trauma-informed care, especially if the moment that led up to your SCI was very traumatic for you.
Society has told people that mental health symptoms and diagnoses are somehow different from when the rest of your body is sick. Society tells us that a disease like cancer is not your fault and that getting treatment for it makes you a powerful survivor. In comparison, we learn that diseases like depression, generalized anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder and others make us weak. We often hear that they are diseases we should be able to heal without using medications.
However, these teachings are far from the truth. For example, if you are experiencing difficulties with your mental health, you may need medication for a short time or a long time. Everyone is different! Plus, you may need other treatments, such as therapy. But medications are sometimes necessary because mental health often has a biological component.
When experiencing a mental health disability such as anxiety or depression, among others, your brain may not be producing enough serotonin, meaning your mind and body will have extreme difficulties with energy levels, regulating emotions, and feeling joy. While you may find some ways to boost your serotonin, if your brain is not functioning properly (think of it like having an upset stomach), medications may be necessary. And that is nothing to be ashamed of.
Medications for mental illness can help your brain produce the hormones that it may be lacking such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine (these are the necessary chemicals for healthy brain function).
If you or a loved one think you may have a mental illness or need medications for treatment, please contact your doctor for testing and more information.
I know it may be scary, and others may have told you that mental health disabilities are shameful, but understand that there is no need to be ashamed. You are worthy of treatment and love. Contacting your doctor to embark on a new mental health treatment journey may be one of the best things you do for yourself.
In this blog, I gave you some information about therapy and why I think it is important. I also hope I could help lift the stigma around medications. My hope is that you find these tips helpful.
I invite you to read my next blog!