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Does Therapy Help With Anxiety and Depression

Therapy is often recommended for anyone struggling with anxiety and depression. But the question is: does therapy actually work, and is therapy really worth it?

I think many people walk into therapy with unrealistic expectations because they were told: “They need to get help,” or “They need to go to therapy.”

In my experience, therapy is not helpful or useful unless you find a great therapist that you can trust and that can also provide you with the kind of support, guidance, and tools that you need for your specific situation.

Just because someone is qualified on paper, as a licensed psychologist, does not make them willing, capable, or qualified to help you.

Therapists are people, and people have personalities and preferences that may not always align with yours. Also, let’s be real, in every profession, there will always be some people who are just in it for the paycheck, and don’t really care about the people that they are supposed to serve.

So in my opinion, therapy cannot help with anxiety and depression if it is not the right kind of therapy applied within the right context, and facilitated by the right therapist. Also, keep in mind that the “right” thing can change. What works for you in one season of your life may not work for you in another.

What to Expect During Therapy Sessions

If you’ve ever said: “I tried therapy but it didn’t work for me,” my question is… how exactly is therapy supposed to work? I didn’t know what to expect during my first therapy session or any session. I just went because that’s what people with mental health issues do, right? But so many of us walk away feeling like therapy just doesn’t work, and that’s probably because we don’t have clear expectations.  

Within the context of mental health,“therapy” is psychotherapy and according to psychiatry.org, psychotherapy is a type of treatment that can help individuals experiencing a wide array of mental health conditions and emotional challenges.

Going into psychotherapy, it’s not always clear what the cause of the problem is or why you’re there, unlike physical therapy. If I break my leg and decide to go to physical therapy, I know that the purpose is to rehabilitate my leg so that I can walk again.

There are x-rays and tests that can show exactly what the issue is and what is broken which helps doctors and physical therapists discern how to fix it. Very little is required of me in order to get a treatment plan for a broken leg. But psychotherapy isn’t as clear, cut, and dry. If I were to break my leg right now, I would call someone to take me to the emergency room. But there is no emergency room for emotional wounds.

Therapy sessions, especially the first one, can feel like you’re undergoing exploratory surgery while you’re awake because the surgery cannot be performed without you being an active participant in the process. 

What I wish I knew before going to therapy for the first time

  1. Therapy is not an instant cure for anything
  2. You won’t always feel better after a therapy session even though sometimes you do
  3. It’s okay to set boundaries and tell your therapist what you like, what you don’t like, and when something is or isn’t working for you
  4. It’s okay to speak up and ask for another therapist or go find one for yourself

How long does it take to get a therapist

It didn’t take me very long to get a therapist, but it took me 2 –  3 years to get a great one.

My first therapist was basically appointed to me by a counselor at my former job. 

My boss at the time gave me an ultimatum: go see a counselor on my own or she would fill out the formal paperwork to make me go. So I went. I was a gigantic anxious and depressed mess and it was affecting my mood and my ability to do my job.

During my first appointment, I was asked to complete the Burns Depression Checklist. My score indicated that I was severely depressed. I remember crying uncontrollably because I was checking so many boxes and experiencing all those symptoms at a high level. 

Up until that moment I believed that my symptoms were personality traits so getting a diagnosis helped me see that I was experiencing a treatable thing called depression. I realized that my symptoms were actually symptoms and not an indication that I was irrevocably broken.

So I will be forever grateful to that therapist for giving me that diagnosis and recommending that I take a medical leave from work for the next 6 months, which I  did, but outside of that, she worked my LAST nerve!! I would sum up our remaining time together as a complete waste of my time!

However because of that experience, I became increasingly aware that in order to get the help I needed I would need to get better at speaking up for myself and leaving “therapeutic” relationships that were not working for me, sooner than later.

I ultimately did that and found the greatest therapist in the whole entire world! 🙂 And now I have two that I love so much and help me in a variety of different ways!

Where to Find a Therapist

  • Through your insurance provider directory
    • You can search directly through your insurance website or use directories such as Grow Therapy, Headway, or Psychology Today

  • Community health organizations
    • Do a google search for “community health center near me” or in your city/state. They often take insurance or offer services on a sliding scale. When I started therapy again, without a job or insurance, I went to a local community health center that only charged me $3 per session.

  • Online platforms
    • BetterHelp 
    • TalkSpace
    • 7cups (text based therapy)

Additional support for anxiety and depression

  • Mobile apps
    • Reframe Mind – Unfortunately it’s an apple IOS only app right now but I started using this once I stopped using 7cups because it comes with an AI wellness coach that I can text and talk to when I’m struggling with my feelings about something. I find it really helpful during late nights and early mornings.

    • Self Esteem app – So this isn’t a mobile app, more like a web app, but after you fill out a questionnaire they send a plan via email that you can read and work through. It’s actually really great content even though I barely use it right now I think it’s a great resource.
  • Podcasts
    • The OCD and Anxiety Show with Matt Codde – my favorite mental health podcast right now
    • Hope for Anxiety and OCD with Carrie Bock
    • Understand Suicide with Paula Fontenelle
    • Unconditionally Worthy with Dr. Adia Gooden
    • Owning it. The Anxiety Podcast with Caroline Foran

  • Hotlines
    • National Suicide Prevention Hotline 988
    • The Hope Line – I stumbled upon this when I was looking for free chat lines or resources. It was really helpful. I used it a couple of times.

If you’d like to hear more about my therapeutic journey and how I found a great therapist, subscribe to the Anxiety and Depression Blog’s Private Podcast for more info.

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