Living a fit lifestyle is more than just eating right or working out. It’s also about taking care of your mind and soul. Mental health and mental wellness is a topic that I’m incredibly passionate about and something I learned the hard way. Sharing my struggles is really scary and I’ll get to those in more detail in a separate blog. Today, I want to share a conversation I had with my therapist Brittany Strauss at Noyau Wellness in Dallas in hopes this will help at least one person.
To better explain, I’ll give some background about myself and hopefully, some of you can relate. I have a Type-A personality and I like having control over many aspects in my life and am a really productive person because of it. I don’t like the unknown and can get easily stressed. Some have called me tense or uptight because it’s hard for me to relax (made loads of progress on this though!). I also have very high expectations of myself and will feel disappointed if I don’t reach them. I also have high expectations of others (and we all know how that can go lol). This creates more stress than is probably necessary in my life.
I started seeing a therapist on-and-off about 2 years ago. I chose to seek therapy when I felt I could no longer handle the stress and anxiety of juggling a full-time job, my new business, my blog, my social life, and personal relationships on my own. There was this feeling of exhaustion from life. I felt trapped. It was a safe space for me to vent to someone. I could finally be honest about my fears and feelings.
I’ve seen my progress in how I handle situations and have worked through my anxiety. I’ve also recognized my triggers and learned how to set better boundaries with my time and energy. After sharing some of my struggles, I learned I wasn’t alone and had a few friends come forward with similar problems. It felt great to know I wasn’t alone in my feelings and in seeking therapy. I wasn’t crazy. With therapy being so taboo or associated with a negative stigma, I sat down with my therapist Brittany and asked some basic questions I hope will shed some light on the therapy experience. In doing so, I want to help combat the idea that it’s weak to ask for help. I highly recommend seeking out therapy when adulting gets way too hard:
What are the most common reasons why people seek out therapists/counselors?
Brittany: Most people seek out a therapist for things like anxiety, depression, life transitions, and relationship issues (like communication)…those are the most common issues. A lot of times, people are just feeling overwhelmed. They are not one hundred percent sure what the next step is, or what they are going to do, so they come see me.
So basically normal everyday stuff?
B: Yes, every day stuff. Sometimes life is just hard, and you need that extra support system.That’s what we are here for.
What’s the biggest misconceptions around seeing a therapist or seeking therapy?
B: I think most people feel like if they go to see a therapist, then they are weak. People feel weak because maybe they can’t handle life by themselves and everyone feels like they should be able to. So there’s this big aspect about feeling either weak, or many people feel they are crazy. People often say things like, “I’m crazy if I go see a therapist or “they are going to send me to a mental hospital…” and they have all these negative images that come along with whatever “crazy” is to them.
Going to see a therapist is none of those things. Going to a therapist is really about going to get some support through life because life is hard, uncomfortable, and it can be really difficult. A therapist is there to provide a support system. A therapist just really wants what you want and wants you to be healthy. That’s the best outcome for a therapist. There are also cultural aspects and the stigma of mental illness that can deter people from coming to therapy. For example, men (at times) really struggle to come in because men are taught that they aren’t supposed to show emotion so they feel weak if the seek help.
Another one is we are not mind readers. Most therapists are just people that genuinely care about their clients. I think about my clients more often than people think I do because they are important to me care. That’s what is different than what people expect in therapy. We try to provide the safest space possible. It’s ok to be sad or emotional. It’s healthy to let it out. I think people don’t realize that’s part of therapy.
How does a therapist provide a safe space for a new clients that friends and family might not be able to?
B: Friends and family have expectations for you. They want you to do what they feel is best for you. They provide support, but they have these expectations or goals of what they want your life to look like, whereas a therapist doesn’t. A therapist wants your life to look the way YOU want your life to look. Therapists attempt to provide an unbiased and non-judgmental place for you to work through anything.
And therapists have been extensively trained to provide an environment that feels comfortable to talk about what those goals actually look like, and what your life actually looks like. Your friends and family can be supportive to a certain extent but they don’t have the training. Most therapists go through at least two years of graduate school before completing an internship where they must complete 3,000 hours of counseling to be fully licensed. So, we have a different set of skills that we bring into the room that creates an environment where you feel supported, and you feel like it’s ok…it’s a safe space.
When should a person seek out therapy?
B: I personally feel like everybody needs therapy, and it’s best if you come in before things reach a breaking point. Most of the time, when people come in, they are in crisis. It feels like the world has dropped out from under them, and they are at the bottom of a hole. They don’t know how to get out. It’s important to do pre-emptive check-ins. You go to the doctor for a checkup, so you don’t get sick. Going to see a therapist is kind of like that. It’s going in and having a place to vent, process, and grow towards a future that you want. By going in before a crisis, usually you will have coping mechanisms in place to deal with what life throws at you. Unfortunately though, most people don’t come in before they are in crisis.
What kind of clients do you treat?
I personally work a lot with 20-somethings, but I see clients ranging from adolescence to middle age. I also work with couples and families to create better relationships. I really enjoy working with all ages, but I personally feel most drawn to working with teens and young adults. They are going through a number of transitions, and adulting is hard. It can be really difficult to figure out your identity, your career, your relationship, and what you even want in life and what that looks like.
So that demographic is really surprising. What are some common issues these 20 somethings are dealing with?
B: They are dealing with a number of transitions: finding a career, finding a partner, figuring out friendships, living alone, and fitting in with what society expect of them. A big issue they face is social pressure. Comparison. A lot of people feel like they have to be like other people. They’ll see other people in their age group, like say, they are 25. Every other 25 year old is getting married, knows what they want, and has their career figured out. And my client might feel like they don’t know what the hell they are doing. So it feels like you’re stuck, and that tends to be a really big issue. In early adulthood, you are trying to find your footing. Like what is your purpose and career? What is your relationship supposed to look like? Are you supposed to be meeting these benchmarks that everybody else seems to be meeting? There’s this feeling of insignificance and doubt in yourself. Feelings of “I don’t know what I’m doing, or who I am, or where I’m supposed to be going, but everyone else seems to have it together” is especially apparent on social media, because everybody is on social media. You see everyone’s highlight reel. It looks like everybody has everything together, and when you feel like you don’t and you see it everywhere, it’s really overwhelming.
I’ve brought this word up in our sessions together. What the hell is normal?
B: There is no normal. Normal is what makes you feel good and healthy. A lot of times, people just want clarification that they are not crazy. And you’re not crazy. The thing is, we don’t talk about issues, and so it always feels like you’re crazy. But most people go through the exact same thing. So if I’m talking to someone about a relationship where they feel unsure …they are not the only that has gone through that, or is going through that, or will be going through it. Other people also experience it, but since we don’t talk about common life stressors, it feels like we’re not normal. It feels like everyone else has it together, and they don’t.
What’s the process like for people who’ve never seen a therapist before?
B: So usually you call, make and appointment somewhere, and most of the time during the first session a therapist will get some background information about you. A lot of times you work together to come up with some sort of game plan or goals and talk about what you want to see changed in your life. We do a lot of goal work here. We want to get you to a point where you feel happy in your life and coming up with an idea or what that looks like is really important. The first session is usually uncomfortable for new clients, which every therapist understands. We do our best to make it as relaxed as possible, and we give a lot of validation that this feeling is normal. I always tell my clients we know it’s awkward to sit on that couch, and you’re probably thinking “why am I talking to this person I’ve never met before?!” But it is the therapists job to get to know you and figure what’s the best way to help you.
How can a person best prepare before going into an appointment?
B: I think being honest is the best way to get any help or see any results. Coming into therapy and being like “I’m going to hide all these things from my therapist” doesn’t allow the therapist to help you achieve what you want or to help you feel better. You know yourself better than I will ever know you and you know what you want more than I would ever know. And I can’t help you find that in you unless you’re honest with me. Really, therapy is about helping you find YOU. Because you know yourself, you know what you want and know what you want your life to look like. So that transparency is really important.
It can be expensive, what other options are there for people who don’t have the budget to afford therapy?
B: So there are a couple of different ways to get therapy. You can get therapy through community health centers. If you’re in a lower income or have a lower budget for therapy, they offer a lower fee and sometimes a sliding scale option for therapy. Most community mental health facilities employ interns or students that are in training. So often they are still in grad school, which some people see as a drawback. There’s also an option of going through your insurance. This one is useful but can be a pain. One, you don’t have as much control over what info is given out and also you have to fight for them to pay for sessions. Usually an insurance company will give you about 8-10 sessions, but you don’t pay nearly as much because insurance covers most of it.
Private pay, like Noyau, is a good option because you have a lot more control and privacy in your mental health, and you don’t have to tell insurance companies why you’re going. We tend to provide our clients receipts, which they can individually submit to insurance, and most clients report receiving between 40-80% reimbursed. However, private pay can be more expensive. Private pay can range from $80 up to $200 per session in the Dallas area.
There are other options. Here at Noyau, we’ve opened up a platform to do texting therapy which gives you a monthly or weekly subscription, and you can text your therapist when needed. Calls or FaceTime are also add-on options. We typically like to see you at least once face to face because it’s nice to get to know who you’re talking to. Texting is a really good option because you can process through any life stressors in the moment. The monthly subscriptions are more affordable and you can get a lot more out of it. Our monthly subscription is about $149 a month. So it’s not outrageous, and like I said it’s unlimited texting. There are other apps out there that do similar things, however from what I have heard they might work a bit differently.
What are the benefits of having a therapist?
B: One of the main benefits in my opinion is having that support system. Sometimes it’s just nice to have a place to vent where you’re not going to be judged. Therapists are trained to have particular techniques that allow them to explore things that maybe you never realized have been affecting you. So, if you have been dealing with something in your childhood that causes a lot of anxiety, and you never recognized that it has been a trigger for you your entire life, it can be addressed through therapy. You can start to work through issues and heal things that may have been affecting your relationships, or your career, or life in general. Therapy provides the support system that allows you to be happy and content in your life. Another major benefit of therapy is providing coping mechanisms for when you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed. You have something to fall back on that’s healthy rather than something that may be unhealthy.
So why is it that therapist don’t offer advice?
B: That’s a common misconception, you will never get advice in therapy. Like I mentioned, you know yourself better than I do. You know what you want, and if I give you advice it could backfire. It might not be what you would actually want. I could tell you to go do something, and if it did backfire you could lose total trust in me. It also then puts my expectations on you. At the end of the day, I don’t know you as well as you know you. I can never be like “You should do this…” because maybe you shouldn’t. Maybe that’s not what you want and that might not be what you need right now. So giving advice could break that trust. It’s kind of like the expectations you could be getting from your family and friends… “ You should break up with him… or you should change your job… or you should do this.” That’s not my position to tell you what to do. You know what you want. You have the power. That’s more important.
Shame is a common theme in a lot issues we’ve talked about. Why do we feel shame?
B: We feel two things and they sometimes get mixed up. Guilt is one. And guilt comes when we have all these “shoulds”. We SHOULD be doing this or should be doing that.
Shame tends to come when we don’t really like ourselves, we don’t feel worthy, or we fear that we can’t be loved as we are… It’s that internal deep message that we’ve told ourselves for a long time, for example “I’m not good enough”. I hear that one a lot. It’s a deep feeling of embarrassment in yourself. It’s not embarrassment in an action you’ve done, it’s embarrassment in YOU. Shame is something we talk about a lot in therapy just because it’s that constant internal message of “I don’t like myself.” It’s a really hard message, and it takes accepting and owning that it’s your shame and then reality checking it. Asking yourself, is this a true message? Because a lot of times we get these shame messages from our childhood. Whether it’s through friends or parents or school or other experiences, we start to internalize messages like:
“I’m broken. I’m not good enough. I’m stupid. I’m less than. I don’t deserve love.” Those messages echo throughout our lives in everything that we do and cause pain. Shame is a hard one.
How did you decide to become a therapist?
B: I originally wanted to study animals, and planned on going into animal behavior. But, I took my first psych class in college , and it just felt right. I had always been the person everyone came to with problems. People always wanted advice or just someone to talk to, and I was that person. It just felt comfortable. I love coming to work. I love talking to my clients, and I love helping and seeing people grow. Having someone come in, in crisis, where the world is ending, and seeing them three months later where they actually look better and feel better and they are happy… to me that is my purpose and that’s why I love it so much. Just to see people change, and have them see this change in themselves and see this confidence in themselves that they may never have had. That’s why I love being a therapist. It’s the benefit I get…helping people feel good.
Brittany Strauss, Counseling Specialist at Noyau Wellness, is an experienced and well-versed therapist and relationship counselor. She is devoted to helping her clients overcome life’s obstacles to achieve a healthier and happier relationship with themselves and others in their lives.
Brittany’s compassion and genuine investment in her client’s well being allows her to develop a strong supportive relationship giving her clients a safe place to explore areas of conflict. Brittany employs an integrative approach to therapy, which focuses on each client’s individual needs and goals. Brittany helps individuals, couples, and families create more meaningful relationships by helping identify issues of conflict, enhancing communication skills, and employing useful coping techniques.
She began her therapy career working with children, families, individuals and couples at Richstone Family Center in Hawthorne, CA. She is also an Associate Professor of Psychology at Collin College where she educates, grows, and trains developing students and practitioners. Brittany received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Denison University in Ohio and Masters of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy from Pepperdine University.
I really hope this interview shed some light on the therapy and counseling experience. Adulting is hard AF and if I can help one person understand they have options when it comes to dealing with this crazy thing called life, that would be a win for me. Here are more resources if you’re seeking counseling options:
Huge thank you to Brittany and Noyau for donating your time for this interview. I’ll be sharing a more personal blog soon about my struggles and what I’ve learned about mental health and self-care through therapy. If you have any questions or want to know more about my experience with therapy, leave me a comment below