Thankfully, the days of being embarrassed about seeing a therapist are long gone. Mental health is finally being openly recognized as a critical part of overall health. And if you’ve been struggling with troubling behaviors, thoughts, or emotions, you might be considering seeing one yourself.
Good for you! Millions of Americans have regular visits with a therapist and reap the positive results of talk therapy. If you’re considering seeing a therapist, you may be wondering if it can actually help you overcome the issues you’ve been dealing with. So we put together this quick list of 5 benefits of seeing a therapist to introduce you to some of the most powerful reasons therapy changes lives by helping people be happier, healthier, and more productive.
1. Therapy provides long-term gains
You’ve probably gone on a diet, lost some weight, felt great about yourself, and then … gained it all back. All your hard work was wasted! What a terrible feeling.
Unlike diets, therapy’s positive effects have the potential to last forever. In therapy, you develop coping skills and tools that not only help you make sense of your past but help you navigate future situations, as well. Once learned, these skills stay with you for life.
Of course, ongoing therapy is going to be more effective over the long term than going for a short amount of time because you gain more tools, skills, and wisdom the longer you attend therapy. But every session’s gains are yours to keep forever. That’s an investment in your future that offers an infinite return on investment.
2. Therapy can improve physical health, too
So many of our modern-day ailments are brought on by stress, trauma, and unexpressed emotions. From high blood pressure to obesity to chronic pain, science has shown us that our emotional state directly and profoundly affects our physical state. Emotions that go unexpressed and get buried tend to manifest as physical symptoms. If you get stress headaches or have a nervous stomach, you already understand the effect emotions have on the physical body.
As you work through your past issues, repressed emotions, and future worries in sessions with your therapist, you may also notice that the physical ailments that have been troubling you start to improve, as well. Common physical ailments connected to a disturbed emotional state include gastrointestinal distress such as irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease, headaches, chronic pain, hives, fatigue, sexual dysfunction, insomnia, and weight issues. As your repressed thoughts and emotions come out of hiding and start to be expressed during therapy, you may find yourself feeling better than ever – both inside and out.
3. Therapy can improve your relationships
Emotions are resilient. You can ignore them, but they refuse to go away.
When we bury our unexpressed anger, trauma, insecurity, hopelessness, and fear, those emotions will find ways to seep out into your daily life. You see the product of unexpressed emotion when someone snaps at you for no reason, when you keep having the same struggles to develop healthy relationships, or when the smallest incident seems to throw someone into a fit of rage. The common denominator of these occurrences is that the target of the bad behavior is not the cause of it. Those unexpressed emotions will always find a way to release themselves, and those you love may be the unhappy recipient.
Obviously, being the target of someone’s projections, anger, resentment, impatience or selfishness is not conducive to building a happy connection. Instead, it creates rifts in the relationship, whether that relationship is romantic or platonic.
When your core traumas and emotions are dealt with in a healthy way in therapy, they no longer stand cocked and ready to fire at the nearest person that crosses some invisible boundary. This creates space for positive interactions and the building of trust, keystones of healthy relationships.
4. You won’t need to “self medicate” anymore
When we think of people “self-medicating” because of stress or emotional trauma, we tend to think of people who abuse alcohol or drugs. That is the case for many people, but “self-medicating” can include any type of destructive behavior that’s meant to help a person avoid their problems by providing some type of distraction. Compulsive shopping, sex, online gaming, porn – they can all be abused to self-medicate.
When you have regular visits with your therapist, you’ll be getting to the source of the problems that are causing your self-medicating behavior. From childhood trauma to daily stress to personality disorders and more, once those issues are being dealt with in a healthy way in therapy, the need to avoid them via drugs, alcohol, or other destructive behaviors will diminish. This leads to positive results mentally, physically, emotionally, and financially.
5. Therapy literally rewires your brain
When you learn to process information differently, it creates new physical connections in the brain. Using brain imaging, studies have shown that patients undergoing psychotherapy show changes in their medial prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, hippocampus, and amygdala. These are the areas in the brain that control worry, executive control, and emotions.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy in particular is shown to causes changes that are measurable in the structures of the brain. One study from King’s College London found that cognitive-behavioral therapy patients developed connections between areas of the brain as they worked to develop new behaviors. CBT works by identifying negative thought patterns and replacing them with positive ones. Each new pattern stimulates new brain pathways, and the unused pathways of the negative thought patterns eventually shrink. The more positive connections your brain has, the easier it is to think and act in healthy ways because your brain is quite literally wired for it.
Ready to start therapy in New York City?
Dr. Jeffrey Ditzell offers therapy in New York City. Evening, weekend, and telemedicine appointments are available so you can get the help you need on your schedule. Schedule your first appointment today to take the first step toward your new life.