Have you been wondering what therapy sessions might feel like? Alexandria, a longtime client, discusses some of the things people might not be sure about when considering starting a healing journey. She walks us through how therapy has helped her feel stable and empowered despite hardship in her life, and why it’s important to seek help when you need it.

I’m a huge believer in utilizing mental health services. In fact, I have worked with several mental health professionals over the last 10 years and I am a better person because of it. Unfortunately, mental health has an undue stigma attached to it, and seeking help from a professional is often looked down upon, especially in communities of color. People often don’t “believe” in depression, anxiety, PTSD, or any of the many mental health issues than affect so many people daily. There is a false belief that you can simply “put the past behind you and move forward” or “try harder” when things get tough. And while these attitudes may be helpful in the long run, I’ve found that they only worked when I was willing and able to work through my emotions and past experiences.

Over the past 10 years I have worked on and off with therapists to help me move through life at different points in time. I have used therapy to help me work through my depression, anxiety, abuse, anger, and the many parts of myself that I felt were damaged. Some people don’t like the idea of telling a stranger all of the deepest and most hurtful parts of themselves. I actually love the fact that I get to talk to a stranger about my issues. You wouldn’t believe how reassuring it is to tell someone outside of your everyday life about something from your past and hear them say something as simple as “I would be mad too” or “I know that couldn’t have been easy”. When I talk to my therapist, I know that by law, she can’t tell anyone else the information I have shared, and she doesn’t know any of the people I mention in my sessions. She is there to simply listen, ask questions that help her better understand how to move forward with helping me, and helping me to better understand myself. Getting an outside perspective to my life has been validating and has helped me grow as an individual.

Today, I am glad to say that I am a happier person overall. I am more secure in myself, I manage my anger in a more constructive way, I am kinder to myself, and I understand that my experiences do not have to negatively define me. Therapy isn’t a “fix” to your life. It doesn’t erase your past, it doesn’t make the pain or the confusion go away forever but, it does help you learn techniques to cope with your experiences. I recognize that I will carry all of my experiences with me for the rest of my life but today I am able to look at those experiences like items stored in an attic. They are all there. Boxed away. Some prettier and in better shape than others but, they belong to me. I can revisit them when I want and sometimes I come across a box I wish I could forget about but, when I do, I know how to handle that box. I think that’s the point of therapy. It is to give you tools so you can better manage your life.

I will always be an advocate for therapy and using mental health services. I literally would not be the successful person I am today. I know my work is never finished but I am so grateful to the people who have helped me along my journey to a better me. I recently read a quote on social media that stuck with me, it said “it’s not your fault, but healing from it is your responsibility”. Going to therapy is taking on the responsibility you owe to yourself to heal and to learn how to be the person you choose to be.

This piece was written by Alexandria Smalls

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