As someone who works directly with patients on their behavioral health in a treatment setting, one of the phrases I hear frequently is, “this isn’t going to help me.” There is a belief that they will be able to overcome their mental health struggles by themselves or if they can just get the right medication it will solve itself. Part of this could stem from stigma, a belief that their mental health isn’t as bad as it really is, or a desire to be self-sufficient. I understand all of those positions. And the reality is, based on both my experience working in a treatment center and industry research, that treatment, particularly evidence-based treatment, is effective and helps hundreds of thousands of people every year.
I could quote statistics and reference articles to you all day, but in my experience, we all relate to real stories and firsthand accounts more easily. This is because of our hippocampus (part of our brain), but that topic is a different article. If you’re contemplating going to therapy or recommending a loved one go to therapy, one of your concerns should be “Is this going to help, or will I be wasting time and money?”
My Experience with Mental Health Treatment
When I went to residential treatment for mental health challenges in 2017, I had my first experience with therapy. My therapist was a 6’7″, 300+ lbs., former all-American offensive tackle for the Oregon Ducks, with 14 years sober after a 3-year prison stint. And all I could think of was how good it felt to finally be able to be open with someone about all aspects of my life. If you get nothing else out of therapy, you have someone who is required by law to keep your secrets, as long as those secrets don’t include murder or abuse of a minor or senior citizen.
More than that though, you get someone who may well have experienced things that you are experiencing and has some insight on how to overcome them. I have lived with anxiety and depression to crippling degrees since my earliest memories. It has prevented me from doing well in school, doing things I loved, forming meaningful friendships, and a whole slew of things you probably don’t have time to read (but if you do, check out my story here). I can honestly say that treatment and therapy kept me alive.
After I graduated from the treatment program I attended, I was given an opportunity to work for the very program that gave me back my life. In the two years that I’ve worked as a case manager, I’ve overseen the treatment of close to 200 clients with varying degrees of mental health struggles. Without a doubt, the clients that get on the correct medication and continue in treatment as recommended by their care providers, go on to live what they described to me as their “life worth living.” One of my favorite examples is a client with schizoaffective disorder who went on to graduate with an MBA. Clients who commit to therapy and stick with it, often find themselves going to therapy after they complete treatment.
Therapy works. If it didn’t, myself, and all of my peers would be out of work. There is no shame in going to therapy. My whole life I felt uncomfortable, striving just to feel okay. I know I’m not unique in this. The percentage of Americans with a mental health struggle is at an all-time high. You too deserve a life worth living. If the difference between just existing and enjoying life is some treatment, why hold yourself back?
Alvin grew up in Southwest Missouri and struggled with depression and addiction from the age of 11. He also has had extreme social anxiety his whole life. Alvin is a veteran of the US Army, and enjoys spending his time doing martial arts, shooting, and reading. Alvin now works as a Behavioral and Peer Support Specialist at a residential treatment center.