Why do we still consider seeking help something to be embarrassed about? If we’re honest, there’s a degree to which we shy away from admitting we reached out to a professional for guidance – even though we’ve become a nation that is far more open and honest about mental health struggles, when it comes to actually getting help, we’re still weird about it.
Seeing a psychologist is usually a GP’s first port of call when it comes to mental health. There are psychologists trained to assist with everything from bitter break ups to eating disorders, so it makes sense that for most of us, the advice is to go have a few sessions.
But for many young people, finding the right psychologist is really difficult. Because look, seeing a psychologist is a scary concept. Some consider it an extreme move. Others are afraid of opening up to a stranger. But seeing a psych doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be seeing them for life, and if they’re good at what they do, judgement is off the table.
For many people, a period of psychologist visits can be all they need to get back on track during times they feel like they’ve fallen off the life-path. I chatted to a bunch of folks who have seen psychologists about how it went down for them. Hopefully their stories help you decide if seeing one would help you out.
I’ve seen psychologists on and off since being diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder by a GP when I was 22. But the most beneficial period has been the past year-and-a-half.
My anxiety flares up the most when I enter a serious relationship, so I started seeing my current psychologist last year when I met someone I liked and things progressed. When he broke up with me, I was completely destroyed. It was less to do with him and more to do with a build-up of self-loathing and shitty self-esteem. I went through a really tough few months and seeing someone weekly was invaluable.
I found seeing my psych in a regular fashion helped me to recognise patterns in my thinking and behaviour, because here was someone objective who was keeping tabs on all of that. It forced me to confront ingrained self-doubt, self-esteem issues and patterns of thinking I wasn’t even aware of, and while mental health is always and WILL always be a journey with ups and downs, I do find I’m a more confident, grounded person who can more often recognise the difference between anxious thoughts and balanced thoughts.
I now see her once every month or so, just to re-centre myself bc anxiety never quits, amirite? I’m such a huge advocate of seeing someone, even if it’s just for a period of your life where you feel a bit rudderless and stressed out. – Mel
I lost my partner of 2 years when I was 17 and didn’t know how to deal with the loss. I threw myself into a whirlwind of drinking, drugs, all the usual escape mechanisms. After one particularly bad repercussion, I decided I needed help to stop what was happening to me, and with the help of my mother found someone to talk to.
It was confronting, uncomfortable and honestly terrifying going to the first session. Over the course of my spiral, I had closed off communication with almost everyone I knew, and had forgotten how to open up and express feelings properly. The psychologist & I tried for a month or so, but it didn’t work out, and I fell back into my hole. It took 3 attempts with different psychologists before I found Mel, and she changed my life. I saw her for 18 months. It helped a lot – she practiced Cognitive Behaviour Therapy which was perfect for me, and then moved into some other forms of therapy including mindfulness, meditation, and more.
After the first three months I was back to talking to friends and family, and after six I felt like a normal person. The frequency of meetings decreased, but I still checked in regularly for the next year, and I still occasionally see someone. Every now and then I put myself in for a bit of a mental health checkup – same as taking my car to the mechanic for a service. I like to visit different people now, as everyone has different approaches hold different values, and it really interests me to hear other opinions.
It’s like any service – you need to shop around. If it doesn’t work the first time, that doesn’t mean it won’t work for you-you just need to find the right fit. Seeing a psychologist honestly saved my life, it changed the outcome of where I was headed and brought me back from a dark place. I couldn’t recommend it enough, and I constantly do. – Tom
I started seeing someone after my best friend died by suicide. I fell into a deep pit of guilt and depression, and needed help to get out. I went to a few different people to find the right person. Some were easy to connect to and open up to – others just wanted to get the job over and done with. I eventually found someone good, and saw them for 6 months to a year maybe.
Looking back I definitely see the benefits and have learn a lot of techniques for when I have my low days. I don’t see anyone at the moment, but my advice is maybe ask friends who they’ve seen, do some research on a therapist that suits you and that you can connect with. – Logan
Late last year I went through a really stressful house move. We had a lot of issues with it and the stress of it all started to affect my eating, sleeping, communicating; basically everything. I found that I became a very anxious person. At first, I didn’t take it that seriously but looking back on it, the whole situation really changed a lot of things about me (even now). The main reason behind seeing a psychologist was to get my physical health back on track and then help my mental health (something that I didn’t think of/understand until seeing my psychologist). I’d developed a form of eating disorder, and my dad & bf really helped me make the decision to see someone.
The first session was scary of course. I was nervous to speak to a stranger and for them to tell me “it’s nothing” or “you’re suicidal” or “you need meds”. But it actually felt really good. Not because everything was sorted instantly, but because I could just vent and someone was listening and they weren’t biased. They just wanted to try and understand. At first, I went once a week. This turned to fortnightly, and now it’s monthly. Life gets busy, and seeing a psychologist can be expensive! I am on a mental health plan which helps cover the cost, but allowing time between appointments lets me log all the info and relay it back to my psychologist these days. I no longer have the eating disorder. There are residual issues, but I work through them one at a time with them.
Seeing a psychologist isn’t a one-time thing and then you are better, you have to put in a conscious effort to think about what you are doing and how it affects you. It took around 2 months for me to see a physical difference, and around 3/4 months to feel more stable emotionally.
If I could give any advice, I’d say – do your research or speak to a friend who may have gone through something similar and just book it in. The hardest thing is going to the first appointment. But just because our mental health isn’t as physically evident as a bleeding wound doesn’t mean it’s less important. Depression and anxiety are just as serious, and you should really take to the time to do some soul-searching and put work into being mentally healthy. Seeing a psychologist offers you another set of ears and another opinion. The stigma behind it all is so fucking stupid! I implore you to put your mental health first. – Georgia
I started seeing a psychologist when my parents are going through a pretty hectic divorce – after a year of trying to deal with it myself, I realised i needed an impartial third party to help me work through the mind fuck of everything. I’m now four sessions in, but the first was really daunting. I was an emotional wreck. It’s pretty daunting sitting in front of someone asking for help and accepting that you need help. But I walked out of that first session so relieved.
The first couple of sessions were just emotional offloading, and now we’re in the actual analysis phase and working through steps as to how I can manage my mental health. That’s probably the hard thing for people – because the initial sessions for me were emotionally overwhelming, and it took til the third session to see where I can actually start to heal and make changes in my life.
I currently go once every two weeks. My best advice is to allow yourself to feel emotion. It’s probably going to be really hard at first and make you feel weak, but once you get over the initial stage of having to explain everything and get to work through things you’ll see the benefit. Just hang in there. It’s been a great way to put all the issues out on the table and have someone who doesn’t know the scenario help assess and analyse how to deal with things! – Kath
When it comes to psychologists for relationship counselling, it’s so valuable being able to have a shared, open, non judgmental space in which to work out relationship/personal issues and stresses, no matter how minor. Essentially the better you communicate as a couple and understand each other the better, so to me – if you’re both serious about your relationship, don’t wait till it’s broken to speak about it with an expert! It’s like personal training for happiness. – Chris
If you are contemplating suicide or having suicidal thoughts, or just want to chat about your mental health, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14, or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467. If you are in immediate danger, call 000.