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Everyone has mental health.
It’s important to know that mental health and mental illness are not the same thing. Think of it in terms of your body health: everyone has physical health but not everyone has a physical illness. Still, you can take action to build strength and practice good health habits to keep yourself functioning day-to-day and to prevent more serious illness later in life.
Physical health can be impacted by factors within and outside of our control, and so can our mental health. Negative life experiences, other people’s actions, major events like natural disasters (or a pandemic), abuse and neglect can cause unwanted mental health symptoms to arise or a mental health crisis to occur even years later.
One of the many misconceptions when it comes to therapy is that it's only for people with big trauma, issues or a diagnosed mental illness. However, our partner therapists have told us that talking to a mental health professional before you’re in a crisis mode is the best way to equip yourself with tools and skills for those times when life throws you a curveball. It can also be useful for self-exploration, building self-esteem, and to help you craft amazing relationships with yourself and others.
“If we can really just take a step back and understand why we are the way that we we are, what influences us, what shaped us, it gives so much more insight into how we can change in the ways that we want … then we have more places to go and there’s so much more capacity to work from.” - Amanda Meier, Registered Social Worker and Psychotherapist (video)
Here are some ways therapy can be helpful for personal growth:
- Getting a better understanding of your sense of self, your values, and your goals
- Identifying and managing burnout
- Exploration of issues past and present
- Learning self-care and self-regulation
- Learning coping skills for emotions
- Learning to be kind to yourself
- Developing and learning communications skills
Using therapy as a skills-building tool can be helpful for individuals, when you’re in relationships with others (couples therapy, family therapy) or when one is at the starting line of building good life skills (child therapy, teen therapy).
It’s important to know that therapy is a judgement-free space. Therapists are trained to help you identify patterns in your life (good and bad), help you address issues you might be avoiding (in your own time), and to be a good listener. Sometimes, having someone to talk to who isn’t part of our regular circles can be empowering—we can get things off our chest, try out some thoughts on someone else and receive neutral (and professional) feedback.
Current challenges vs. personal growth
Therapists may break down clients’ reasons for entering therapy into 2 categories: current challenges and personal growth.
Personal growth is more of that ongoing process of positive self-development. A current challenge would be something that is interfering with your everyday life, which makes you seek out professional mental health support.
Common challenges include:
- Anxiety—to the point where it’s affecting your day-to-day life
- Depression—where it doesn’t seem to be going away on its own
- Trauma—you’d like some professional help processing the effects of some adverse events or relationships
- Relationships—a partner, friend, or family member is causing you distress, or you’re simply worried about a particular relationship
- Low self-esteem—you are very hard on yourself and you could use some help developing self-compassion
- High stress—life is too much right now, and you’re looking for better strategies to manage your emotions
- ADHD—you may or may not have a diagnosis, but you have a lot of trouble focusing and staying on task
Feeling like you’re struggling is nothing to be ashamed of, and you’re certainly not alone. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), one in five Canadians will experience mental health issues or illness in their lifetime. Statistics Canada released 2021 data that showed the conditions of the pandemic further impacted Canadians’ mental health, with one in four adults having confirmed symptoms of mental health conditions like depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
How to take the first step
Making the decision to address mental illness or work on your overall mental health outlook is a huge accomplishment! You might have a clear idea of what you want to work on as a starter, but many people don’t and that’s okay too.
Every therapist is going to be different and it’s important to find someone who is the best fit for you. There are several therapist types (psychologists, social workers, psychotherapists) to choose from, and each therapist will specialize in certain methods (modalities) and some work with specific clientele (women, men, LGBTQ2IA+, BIPOC).
You can talk to a few therapists until you find one you click with the most, and there is no pressure to continue with any therapist for any length of time. Therapists also value finding a good fit with a client. Many therapists offer free phone consultations to help with this part of the process. You can also watch therapist intro videos on First Session to get a sense of the practitioner before you reach out.
Here are some green flags to look for when it comes to therapist fit:
- You feel safe
- Communication is clear
- You feel heard and validated
- You feel respected
- You believe they want what’s best for you
- You don’t feel rushed
- They challenge you to be better
- You start to notice positive changes after appointments
Still not sure? Dive into our Therapy 101 guide, or try our free 6-day email course for more on these topics and everything else you need to get started.
Find a therapist with First Session. You can compare hundreds of licensed therapists, counsellors, psychologists and psychotherapists; and filter by province, specialization, therapy type and more. Watch intro videos, and book online or in-person appointments. Remember, many initial consultations are free.