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What To Expect When You Start Your Journey Towards Mental Health

It’s normal to have fears about visiting a mental health professional.

22/03/2017 12:36 PM IST | Updated 27/03/2017 9:05 AM IST
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Sitting in the waiting room

Struggling with my inner gloom

Feeling scared and vulnerable

With an ever increasing sense of doom.

What if, I can't express myself

What if, someone comes to know

What if, I get called 'mad'

What if, my sadness fails to show?

Or pills is what I get

What if, I change after the session?

Oh my... being here, how much I regret.

Meeting a mental health professional for the first time can feel daunting and scary. There are many thoughts that come to mind when someone decides to see a therapist. These thoughts vary from the fear of opening up in front of a stranger, to feelings of being judged or being scared of the consequences in case someone comes to know about it. What if the therapist thinks of me as an evil horrible person? Or what if someone sees me enter the clinic and everyone comes to know about it? Or worse, what if the entire Google search about my symptoms is true? No one is alone in experiencing these thoughts.

If we look at our traditional practices, family has played an important role in providing support in case of difficulties. In such a context, getting out of the comfort and safety of family to seek professional help for mental health concerns is a big ask. Identifying the need for the same and getting it when needed, is the first step in the right direction. It is an acknowledgement of a difficulty you or your loved one is experiencing that you plan to overcome.

The therapist helps to set realistic, achievable goals, where all decisions are genuinely and explicitly negotiated.

If someone is embarking on this journey, for themselves or for their loved ones, here are a few things to expect (or not to expect) while dealing with the professionals and the services.

Let us start with the common problems for which people come to seek help. The concerns vary from an emotional one like feeling sad or depressed to behavioural concerns such as not being able to do things, amotivation, and aggressive behaviour. It might be easier for the person to understand and work on the difficulties if they are making an appointment for himself or herself. When it is for a family member who is not very inclined to get help, it can be an exhausting and frustrating experience.

Through therapy, individuals modify their behaviour, experience and environment to overcome their problems with the help of the clinician. The relationship between the therapist and the client plays a key role in achieving this. A therapeutic relationship is a purposeful partnership that facilitates a meaningful change. In an effective treatment alliance, the therapist is warm, interested, and respectful in her or his approach and relates with honesty, trustworthiness, and openness. The therapist also helps to set realistic, achievable goals, where all decisions are genuinely and explicitly negotiated.

We tend to forget that timely management of the problem is likely to save us more money than that lost by being unproductive and unwell if the problems continue.

Another important aspect of therapy is the non-judgmental approach of the therapist. Skilled mental health professionals are emotionally supportive and listen to the problems without blame. They tend to demonstrate an empathic understanding of the situation. This creates a safe environment in which painful events and intimate details of life can be shared with utmost ease. Sometimes there could be doubts about sharing sensitive information with the therapist. It is important to be honest for any therapy to work and be aware that the professionals don't share the information with anyone without the permission of the client.

There are times when people don't want to get help as they are wary of jeopardising their future prospects for marriage or career. It is important to note that in these situations, problems impacting relationships or job performance are far more likely to worsen without help. The earlier the problem is addressed with appropriate treatment, the better the outcome is.

Sometimes, cost aspects play an important part in preventing people from seeing a professional. We tend to forget that timely management of the problem is likely to save us more money than that lost by being unproductive and unwell if the problems continue. One of the worst fears for someone visiting a mental health professional is getting a medical prescription. Interestingly, there are only a few and specific situations in which qualified mental health professionals with a medical background, such as psychiatrists, prescribe medicines. Most often, it is done after an extensive discussion with the client and taking into account their preferences. Other mental health professionals are from backgrounds such as psychology and social work. The most commonly used forms of treatment modalities for mild to moderate mental health concerns include psychological therapies, commonly known as talk therapies. These therapies follow a particular format and differ in the disorders they are used to treat.

To summarise, going to a mental health professional can be a challenging and scary experience. However, it is important to remember that getting help is the first step in the journey of feeling better.

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