Get Beyond Stigma and Find the Help You Need
Tips for Seeking Therapy for the First Time
The pandemic continues to impact our daily lives and virtually everyone is experiencing some type of mental health challenge. Economic woes, grief, isolation, loneliness, or fear of contracting COVID are causing mental health concerns for people who have not experienced these issues in the past.
Mark O’Brien, LCSW-R, Erie County Commissioner of Mental Health, says there is no shame in seeking help for a very human condition. There are many things to be anxious about and most people are experiencing a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. Seeing a therapist and getting counseling can be the first step towards improving mental health and there is no better time to begin treatment.
“Behavioral health services don’t have to be in person – the pandemic has hastened the future with telehealth,” he said. “For people who are too anxious or depressed to leave their homes, they can participate in teletherapy from the comfort of their own home. All they need is a computer or phone.”
“When discussing the stigma of mental illness, there is stigma and internal perceived stigma,” O’Brien said. “Stigma is the societal message that something is wrong with you and the internal stigma may add additional feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.”
According to O’Brien, people need hope, purpose and connection. Even introverts are social beings, and we all derive positive benefits from relationships and interactions with each other. All these basic needs are being negatively impacted by the lingering pandemic.
If you are seeking counseling for the first time, you are not alone. The following information may help you find help that will positively impact your mental wellness.
How to find a therapist:
- If you are in crisis, call Crisis Services at 716-834-3131 or the 24-Hour Addiction Hotline at 716-831-7007
- Mental Health Advocates of WNY for linkage to community resources, providers and treatment services. Call 716-886-1242 or visit mhawny.org.
- Erie County Department of Mental Health offers a list of behavioral health agencies.
- Erie County Anti-Stigma Coalition resource page lists agencies offering mental health providers.
Referrals are not needed and most insurances are accepted for mental health treatment. Many operate on a sliding scale for patients without insurance.
Why choose therapy?
Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is a way to help people with a broad variety of mental health issues and emotional difficulties. Therapy can address troubling symptoms so a person can function better and heal.
According to O’Brien, anxiety and depression, the two most common mental health issues, are the most amenable to talk therapy without medication. Older adults, adults and adolescents can benefit from therapy.
What to expect at the first appointment?
The therapist will get to know the patient and discuss their presenting symptoms. It’s helpful to make a good connection and develop a sense of rapport. New patients will complete a personal history questionnaire and explain what they hope to get out of therapy.
Confidentiality and therapist relationships:
Confidentiality is an important part of therapy. All sessions are confidential. Individuals must sign a consent for the release of information to be shared with anyone outside the provider or agency. The only exception is when the individual is at risk of hurting themselves or someone else.
According to Karl Shallowhorn, chair of the Erie County Anti-Stigma Coalition, having a good therapeutic relationship is important.
“When seeking treatment, it’s important to feel comfortable with the therapist and that you are able to be open and honest in your sessions. It’s okay to seek help elsewhere if you feel that there isn’t a good “fit” between the two of you.”
“Have patience – it can take time to work through some of the issues that are presented in therapy. Recovery can be hard work. But by being open to the process and having the willingness to change, it is possible to get positive results,” Shallowhorn said.
There are a variety of therapeutic models that therapists use: CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), Interpersonal Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, EMDR, Family Sytems Therapy, Person Centered Therapy, and Solution-Focused Brief Therapy to name but a few. Each one of these is designed to treat a variety of mental health conditions with its own unique approach.
The Erie County Anti-Stigma Coalition’s mission is to stop the stigma surrounding mental health. People share their stories, their struggles, and their successes to encourage others and remind them that they are not alone. Help is available and recovery is possible.
Preparing for therapy: What you need to know
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Free, Anonymous Mental Health Screening
Taking a mental health screening is one of the quickest and easiest ways to determine whether you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition.
Mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety, are real, common and treatable. Recovery is possible. If the results of your screening indicate the need for continued support, please call Mental Health Advocates of WNY at (716) 886-1242.
“There is no shame in seeking help for a very human condition. There are many things to be anxious about and most people are experiencing a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. Seeing a therapist and getting counseling can be the first step towards improving mental health and there is no better time to begin treatment.”