A Reflection on Therapy

I have been in therapy for two and a half years. I want to share some of my thoughts and things that I have learned over those years with the hope of encouraging others to take the step.

Slow down, take the time

The first lesson I learned is that therapy is slow (mostly). I have been in therapy for two and half years, every week, for an hour. That is about 130 days (there were weeks that I didn't go due to conflicts and they close for different holidays so that is a rough number) or another way to look at it is 130 hours of working on myself. Consider how long it takes do something, like learn a new hobby. Some research shows that it takes 10,000 hours to master a new skill, while others argue that you can learn a new skill in 20 hours.1 The difference between those two is the level in which the skill is obtained. When talking about mastering a skill, 10,000 hours is a good rule to follow. However, the argument for 20 hours is for just becoming proficient in a skill. So if you just want to learn chess and be able to play with someone, 20 hours is enough but if you want to become a world class chess player, 10,000 hours is needed.

Now we are talking about our lives and relearning habits and thought processes when it comes to therapy so we could split the time in half and consider 50-100 hours as a good marker for the amount of time needed to see therapy as "working". Now this still depends on a lot of factors, including how stubborn you are in the process, more on that later. Therapy is a slow process because it takes time to unlearn and relearn habits and thought processes. Don't go into therapy thinking it will be quick. There are a few specific forms of therapy for specific issues and are more intense but that is mainly for PTSD and Trauma therapy and is supplemental to traditional therapy. Some of my hours spent in therapy could have been trimmed down if I got into one of those programs but that is easier said than done.


The second lesson I learned is that your therapist must be your advocate. There is a special relationship between the therapist and the patient. Both parties must feel comfortable and capable of growing in that unique relationship. It is okay to go through a few therapists before you settle on one because you have to connect with them. I was very fortunate that I did not have to try very hard. The first therapist I visited was good and we were working on stuff together but she moved just a couple of months in so they moved me to another therapist based off my previous therapist's recommendation. They paired me with someone that they believed would be a good fit and it worked out very well.

My current therapist is amazing person who is a true advocate for me. She works hard to ensure I get the treatment that I need. One of the issues I faced was insurance issues. I am on medicaid and the particular one I had was being phased out by the therapy center I go to. Trying to switch medicaid providers outside of enrollment is a pain...so much of a pain. (Don't judge therapy by the pain that is insurance, it is not their fault.) The problem was during that time of trying to switch, I wouldn't be able to get any sessions with my therapist. Knowing that this would cause issues and result in me moving backwards in my progress, my therapist went to her bosses and advocated for me. She talked them into letting my still visit pro-bono until my insurance was figured out. She made it clear that this is not done for everyone but because I was working and doing my part, she had no problem fighting for me. I went two months while trying to sort out this insurance where they ate the costs because my care was more important. Find a therapist that will fight for you. They are out there.


While it is really hard, especially with a stranger, being honest is the best way to get the most out of therapy. It is so hard! but facing those thoughts and feelings is the only way for true healing to start. It is important to be honest, both with yourself, and with your therapist. If you therapist gives you homework, do the work or don't do it but do not tell them you did it and you really didn't.

Another side of this honesty equation is being open to your feelings. That was the hardest part for me. I don't "feel" the same way as other people and I struggle with "feeling" my emotions. Part of that is due to my autistic nature. Yet part of the struggle also came from years of bottling it all up and not being open to the emotions as they came up. This challenged me greatly to be honest and open about things, things that were scary. I remember having a solid two weeks where I began to understand and feel emotions and I cried every day because it was just a flood that washed over me from all the years of neglect. That was difficult because it forced me to approach something new and unfamiliar. I remember asking my therapist if there would be a time where I would stop being so overwhelmed with emotions because it was draining. I am glad to report that yes there is a point where it levels out. While I still don't "feel" the same as others, I am better about my emotions.


You have to fight for yourself, you have to fight for your health. Every day you have to make a choice about what you will do. While it is helpful to have other people in your corner fighting for you (a spouse, family members, a therapist), it will always come down to you. Will you fight for your mental health? The biggest struggle I had was taking the first step and setting up an appointment. Yet after spending a week in outpatient psych ward from an anxiety attack, it became clear that I needed to fight for my health.

Fight for a good therapist, don't just give in to whoever you find and don't give up if you have to go through three or five or ten before you find someone. Also don't be afraid to fight with your therapist. What I mean is this; push back when things don't make sense. Challenge and ask questions. Don't just shake your head or say yes. If you don't agree, say so. A great therapist will not be offended by this but happy because it means you are working and fighting for your health. There were many times I went back and forth with my therapist about issues we were talking about. She will say that they were some of the best sessions for her as much as they were for me because it challenged her to be better. Therapists want to grow and learn as well. Fighting, respectfully, can help make that relationship stronger.

Take a step

Looking back over these past two and half years, I am grateful for all the work my therapist has put in to helping me heal and learn about myself. There were many weeks that were rough and some weeks that I just didn't want to do it but every step of the way, I had to remind myself that it was for the sake of myself and my family. It will always be difficult. There will be just as many steps backwards and there are forwards. The important point is that we just take the next step. Nothing will ever change if you never take the step. So yes, it will be hard. You may struggle to find a therapist you can work with. You will most definitely struggle with insurance. There will be weeks that seem hopeless but it really does work. Having someone willing to walk with you through your life, without judgement, and just trying to fight for you is an amazing thing. While we should also have those kinds of relationships in our spouse, family members, church members, and the like, the difference here is that a therapist has been trained to objectively and creatively view your circumstances and help you navigate it in a healthy way. Not everyone is capable of doing that. So just take a step, make the phone call, do something to find the healing that you need.