I often run into the idea that counselors and therapists are supposed to fix things. This usually implies that there is some kind of time limit on mental health counseling.
I will tell you right now, this is not true.
There is no time limit on recovering from some mental health topics. It doesn’t even have to be something like depression, anxiety, trauma or addiction. It can be something like struggling with self-esteem or dating (things which do not require any type of diagnosis).
Each of us recovers from the ways we’ve been wounded at different rates. One person might feel better very quickly while another might need to take more time.
We cannot compare our stories to one another. Maintaining mental health is not a competition. It is as unique as there are people in the world.
Each of us has a different background that we have come from. One person’s family baggage (which we all have, by the way) will look different from another’s and thus impact their time in counseling differently.
Furthermore, more time in counseling does not make you more or less mentally well or ill.
It just means that you understand your personal needs. Some of us in certain seasons of our lives need more support for the things we struggle with than others. Sometimes we need less support in certain seasons, if any support at all.
Actually, I have found that it is unhelpful to think in terms of mentally ill or mentally well. A very healthy person can catch a cold at any point in time. All that a cold (or maybe something like strep or tonsillitis) means is that you have to visit your primary care physician for some medication and maybe even medical counsel.
There is no need to put ourselves down simply because we are experiencing a struggle with maintaining the balance of our mental health. It is incredibly normal and everyone struggles at one point or another.
Please remember. We do not always show this side of ourselves to the public! It would be strange boundaries if we did so unless we were in the presence of someone we trusted. I hear may people describing keeping this stuff closer to the vest as not open or authentic. It is incredibly authentic because certain personal struggles probably should only be shared with people we trust and are close with so as to protect ourselves and others (given that we don’t know a stranger’s triggers the way we might know a friends when sharing our personal experiences).
There is also no limit on what you can talk about in therapy.
You don’t need a formal diagnosis to benefit from some counseling or therapy. I have many clients that come to counseling to process a wide variety of topics in addition to things like depression, anxiety, and trauma such as:
-arguments with family or friends
-drama going on in school or the workplace
-self-improvement in general
This is a really short list, but the point is that nothing is off the table because I, and most counselors, work hard to provide a non-judgmental environment for you to talk about your life. That means, whatever is important to you is important to us too.
Part of why this is important is because it removes stigma
If nothing is off the table and there is no time limit to therapy, then stigma goes away as well. Sometimes, we just need a person who is not integrated into the rest of our lives to talk to about the things that bother us. There is nothing wrong with that. It gives you a unique perspective and you can be as messy as you want without worrying about if it’s going to seriously impact the rest of your life. Hell, you can fire a therapist and it really wouldn’t disturb your life at all from a pragmatic standpoint.
Not having a time or topic limit also helps teens and children in therapy feel a lot less stressed.
Regardless of what people think these days, kids really care about what their parents think about them. Parents are the most important part of our lives when we’re growing up. That’s why so many of the issues we experience as adults actually stem from our childhood experiences. There’s nothing wrong with this. We need to own this so that way we can overcome these things.
By removing the time and topic limit for your kids in counseling, you’re communicating that you unconditionally love them and are invested in what is important to them. You’re also demonstrating patience which will help develop your kid’s emotional intuition. It’s okay to feel sad or to generally not be okay. This teaches them that while life and its responsibilities don’t stop, we don’t have to hate on ourselves for feeling the way that we do.
BUT THE MONEY…!
Yeah. Counseling and mental health care are expensive because either the counselor doesn’t take insurance or your insurance company (like mine) doesn’t even offer mental health benefits. However, counseling is a worthwhile investment. I currently see a therapist for my own mental health upkeep and I can tell you that I pay more for my own therapy than what I currently charge for therapy. And yes, it is expensive and I had to really think about if I could afford this therapist. But it is and has been absolutely worth it so far. The best advice that I can give is to budget appropriately.
Moreover, most counselors, myself included, offer a sliding scale, meaning that we’ll adjust the cost of sessions to make them more affordable if you can’t afford the baseline hourly rate. Don’t be afraid to ask for a discussion about lowering the cost of therapy! Mental health counseling is a right, not a privilege, which is why I will always offer my discount program.
Counseling is a service that can benefit literally anyone at any given point of time in their life. There is no time limit and there is no topic limit. Therapists and counselors are trained in everything ranging from trauma, to mood disorders, to sex counseling, to your more everyday (but just as serious) struggles in life like dating or difficulty making friends.
Do not judge yourself simply because you find yourself thinking that it’d be nice to speak to a counselor. Don’t beat yourself up because you’ve been in therapy off and on for the last who knows how many years. I, myself, have been in therapy off and on for the last 5 years to work through trauma, inner child work, and other topics that I struggle with including secondary trauma from work. You’re in good company! Most counselors and therapists have had some form of psychotherapy during their career. So we understand the benefit of counseling without time or topic limits. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else’s journey. They’re vastly different and that’s okay.
Feel free to be yourself and discuss whatever makes the most sense to you during your next session.