In January 2021 my daughter informed me that she was starting therapy. My initial reaction was one of panic: Oh my goodness, what childhood or adolescent trauma was she reliving? I had immediate flashbacks of all the possible reasons that she could have made this decision and when I had done making the list, I did what any rational thinking parent would do and asked her. Her reason was simple: there was nothing specific, but prevention was better than cure. This made perfect sense. She was 23 years old at the time and I knew that amongst her generation, the topic of mental health was not the same taboo subject that it had been for my parents’ generation, who had grown up in the 40s and 50s. Neither was it the overlooked subject that it was for those of my generation who had grown up in the 70s and 80s.
Mental health was becoming an acceptable topic of discussion and when my daughter told me she was having therapy I was proud of her. Proud, because she was aware of the importance of taking care of her mental health at such a young age; something I should have done many years ago. At a time when the world was in lockdown due to Covid restrictions and social interactions were all but invisible, the need to express one’s feelings was never more apparent. The opportunity to have a safe space to share was so important. My daughter had made a decision that would not only have a positive impact on her life, it would also have a positive impact on mine.
I knew, many years ago that I would benefit from therapy. The range of experiences I had been through from childhood to adulthood had left an indelible negative mark on my mental health; there were things I had grappled with internally which I knew I needed to work through, but I did nothing about it. Why? Because I was scared. I was scared no-one would really want to know about the things I had experienced. Scared that I didn’t have the words to articulate the range of emotions that had built up over the years. Scared I would not be able to stop talking once I started. But I knew it was something I needed to do. Every time I thought about therapy, a myriad of somatic feelings presented themselves and the idea was quickly thrust out of my mind. But when my daughter told me she was having therapy, I felt like I couldn’t ignore the feelings any longer. As her therapy sessions progressed I could see it was having a positive impact on the way in which she viewed herself and the world around her. The fact that she was paying for her sessions each week out of her limited salary, was a clear indicator that she was not only willing to make an emotional investment in her wellbeing, but also a financial one. It really got me thinking.
In January 2022, 17 years after completing the postgraduate certificate, I decided to resume my Masters degree in Coaching and Mentoring Practice and go for the full qualification. In the same month I also decided I wanted to become a psychotherapist and in September 2022 I began my foundation year in Transactional Analysis (TA) Psychotherapy. Now the thing about training to become a psychotherapist is there is a requirement to undergo your own personal therapy; 40 hours a year for four years – the duration of the course. I was suddenly presented with a situation where I had no choice. If I wanted to achieve my goal, I had to do the one thing I had been avoiding for the past 25 years; go to therapy.
Now, almost at the end of the first year of psychotherapy training and five months into therapy I can honestly say it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. My foundation year has helped me to develop an understanding the psychology of human behaviours as it applies to me. I have learnt about Ego-states, Games, Drivers, Transactions, Personality Adaptations and much more. I have learnt how to become more aware of my own behaviour and the impact it can have on the way in which others respond. I have also learnt how these behaviours are formed in childhood and how as an adult, they present in my interactions with others. As a result, my relationships with those closest to me have changed – maybe not dramatically at this point, but there has been change. When I start my second year of training in September 2023, I’ll be delving deeper into the clinical side of psychotherapy. I’ll also begin a voluntary placement, which means I’ll start to work with clients and I’m looking forward to being able to provide support for those who need it.
The therapy sessions I have had have also been beneficial. They have given me the space I have needed to talk, without feeling like I am being a burden to anyone – mainly because the person is being paid to listen to me – but also because they have provided a safe space for me to share and help me to explore my emotions and experiences. But it has been a challenge; having to think more deeply than I have wanted to in the past for fear of falling down a rabbit hole I wasn’t able to climb out of. But I have embraced the challenge and have been able to climb out of the rabbit hole, in one piece, each time. I know I have a long way to go…..three more years to be precise, but I’m glad I have finally started. I often say I wish I’d started years ago, both the training and the therapy, but I know everything happens at the time it’s supposed to happen, so I don’t allow potential regrets to remain.
My daughter has been my role model, showing me (unintentionally) the importance of looking after your mental wellbeing and for this I will be forever grateful.
If you’re reading this and considering whether therapy is really ‘for you’, I would encourage you to give it a go. As my daughter showed, you don’t need to be in a crisis to have therapy and as I have shown, if you try to run away from your issues or pretend that you’re coping, the long term impact can be all consuming and one day you may find yourself in a crisis. I’ve left the details of organisations you can use to find a therapist. Send them an email, have a conversation, try a few sessions. If you don’t connect with the therapist after a few sessions, try a different one, but don’t give up. Therapy is not just for celebrities (or Americans), it’s for anyone who needs a space reserved for them to talk.