A few weeks ago, I was asked to write a quick review about the experience that I had with my therapist. I was very quick to say “of course!” but I was not very quick to get it written.
How do you say, quickly and eloquently, “therapy gave me a life I never believed was in the cards for me”? I mean, I guess I could have easily just said that. But I didn’t think about it.
Yesterday I was walking to my part time job at the bookstore. Be-bopping along, feeling the sun, holding my head up high and feeling so happy. I caught a glimpse of a license plate that said, “For the rich, there’s therapy. For the rest of us, there’s chocolate.” That brought me so low.
For starters—why are you posting that on your motor vehicle? It’s not even a bumper sticker! Bumper stickers you can say, “You know, I don’t know what happened. I thought it was funny and 15 seconds later it was adhered to my car.” But this required, like, finding the screwdriver and sitting in the driveway and intentionally applying this to your car. My old boss used to have one of these license plates that advertised where he went to college. That makes perfect sense to me! I get that. But “therapy is expensive” is something worth advertising on your car? I guess maybe if you’re an heir to the Nestle fortune.
Okay, so aside from just how dumb it is, it made me sad. Sad because of how many people that I know who have told me that they would love to go to therapy but haven’t even looked into it because of this general idea that it’s prohibitively expensive. Sad because of how trivialized it is—it’s seen as a luxury. Something that can be replicated easily by just unwrapping a $4 bar of chocolate or pouring another glass of wine or taking a fancy bath. Don’t get me wrong—chocolate, wine, baths, these all have a place in the world of self-care. These are glorious methods to use to unwind after a long day or to treat yourself with after you’ve had an exceptionally hard week or life or whatever. But chocolate isn’t going to coach you through an exploration of cognitive behavior—these are two different things and don’t belong on the same license plate.
It’s important to me to constantly talk about therapy and normalize it. Because it’s normal and it’s necessary. In 2015, I saw my medical doctor one time. I met with my therapist… maybe 30 times? And we only stopped because she was like, “I think you’re doing pretty good right now, what do you think?” And I had to agree, even though I really didn’t want to stop seeing her. I love her.
“I think I’d like to go to therapy but my problems really aren’t that bad.” This kept me from even considering it as an option for a long time. I knew people who had been admitted to the mental health floor of the hospital and even they’d never been to see a therapist so surely it wasn’t something that I needed! After I’d explained this line of thought to my then-boyfriend, he found a very sweet way to explain to me that this was a really backwards way of looking at it.
It took me a long time to decide that I for-sure wanted to try therapy and once I even decided to do it, it still took me months to make the phone call. I remember that when I finally decided to pick up the phone and call, I was on the verge of tears the whole time because of how hard it was. That’s the thing about seeking help for anxiety—even if you don’t have a name for it yet, it can be incredibly anxiety inducing! But I did it! And after I did it, I bought myself some chocolate because for all of us there’s therapy and chocolate.
The first thing out of my mouth in my first session was something along the lines of, “I don’t want to waste your time or anything so let me know if my problems aren’t bad enough to be here.” She laughed—not in a mean way but to ease the tension. She told me that there are so many things in that sentence that let her know that I was in the right place right now. And that felt good to hear. I mean, truth be told, I wouldn’t have been there if I didn’t think that I could benefit from it and it was nice to be validated in that respect.
One of the first things that we worked on was the way that I go out of my way to keep my existence from imposing on other people—which was something that I was dealing with at the time. Something that was so obvious by that first thing that I’d said to her. Wouldn’t you agree? This was back in 2012 and I’ve been going off and on ever since.
I didn’t think that I could afford therapy. I thought that therapy was for the rich and chocolate was for the rest of us. Or, more realistically, I thought that therapy was for the rich and crying 3-5 times on a good week was for the rest of us. So when I called, right away, I laid out my financial situation. I said, “I don’t have a lot of money. But I need this. So what can we do to make this happen?” I figured if I was going to get vulnerable with my therapist at some point, why not start now? I was able to get on a sliding pay scale that made my appointments more affordable. It wasn’t terribly cheap by any means—especially not for me. I was working at Walmart at the time—a company that isn’t exactly known for over-paying their employees. It was an investment that I was making and it was important to me that I saw it as such. I made an enormous sacrifice to make it to my sessions—for a while we had to spread out my sessions to monthly instead of weekly or even every other week. And that was fine. I was going! I was doing the work. At a certain point, I could start to see a different life ahead of me.
I didn’t have health insurance when I was seeing my therapist regularly but I have since learned that a lot of insurance companies will cover at least a portion of your treatment. I also know that many jobs offer an employee assistance program that will provide a limited number of sessions with a therapist. I know that these aren’t necessarily options for every one but I know that there are options out there if we reach out and ask.
I had a job and wasn’t able to get a lot of time off—so I managed to find someone who could meet me after hours. Sometimes we met as late as 8:00 pm. Later on, when my fiancé and I started going to couples counseling and we had to coordinate schedules with three different people, not easy, I was able to meet on my lunch breaks. It wasn’t easy—and sometimes I ate a PB&J in my car on my way to my therapist’s office, but I made it work.
We’re living in a technological age, now. There are even online therapists! I tried it out for a while. It wasn’t for me but that doesn’t mean that it’s not for you! If that sounds like something that you’d be interested in, give it a quick Google! And a lot of programs offer a free trial period so you can try before you commit financially.
I’m writing this to you because you’re my friend. And I am so passionate about you becoming the best version of yourself that you could possibly be. If you’re happy—that’s awesome. That’s really, really awesome! But if there’s something you’re having trouble shaking or if there’s something that you’d like an outside perspective on or if there’s anything that feels like a roadblock to your ability to feel free, I want you to know that you can have what you want. I really, truly believe that.
You’re capable of it but more than that, you’re worth it.
Please, if you have any questions for me let me know.
Do you want to know why I started therapy or why I’ve stopped?
Do you want to know what a session is like?
Do you want to hear from other people who have gone through it?
Do you have different reasons for shying away from therapy even though a little part of you would like to try it?
Let me know! And I promise to get you answers to your questions.
You’re capable and you’re worth it.
3 thoughts on “For the rich, there’s therapy. For the rest of us, there’s chocolate.”
Thank you for being an advocate for mental health care. It’s making me cry for many reasons that I’m sure you can imagine. Keep breaking down the stigma!
Thanks for writing this.
If I’m being honest, I think I *should* see a therapist, but I have a hard time getting past the time commitment and money roadblocks. It is encouraging to see what you’ve written. I feel like I made it past the worst parts and am “doing OK” now and I’m a bit apprehensive to dig old stuff up.
Wow! This got “real o clock” really fast.
I totally understand that, Staci! Sometimes if something’s over and you’re really at peace with it all, it’s best not to bring it all up again! That being said, though, it never hurts to have a therapist “on deck” during the good times for when things get… not so good. Times like those it’s so much harder to do the work to find someone to talk to and it’s good to have a number to call. 🙂
I have SO MUCH more to say about all of this.