Therapy can be scary, especially when sharing your darkest experiences with a stranger. It was for me and is for many other people. I saw a psychologist for the first time when I was 11. At this point in my life, I was extremely shy, only speaking a few words to most people. It took time for me to trust this person, but it was worth it. I came out with coping strategies I still use today.
From there, I went into the public mental health system. For me, this was a difficult experience. I didn’t find a connection with anyone because I saw different people in most sessions. However, I was lucky enough to receive my autism diagnosis. I am conscious this is a rare occurrence, and I feel blessed that the professionals around me saw my brain in a way no one else could and gave me the help I needed through a diagnosis.
After I got discharged, I saw a couple of counsellors but felt uncomfortable and misunderstood. I felt as though my voice wasn’t heard. Because of this, I decided not to seek professional help for a while, as I thought it wasn’t for me. I couldn’t speak about what was causing my pain and didn’t see a difference in myself. During this time, my mental health got worse.
One night, I thought, ‘I can’t do this on my own anymore’ and looked up counselling in my area. I found someone I felt would respect me and reached out. Our sessions were more empowering than previous experiences because he used a different approach called ‘person-centred therapy.’ We tried alternative ways to express myself, such as art, music, drama and meditation. I felt comfortable as there was no pressure to talk, and he accepted me for where I was at. Because of this, I shared stuff I hadn’t spoken about before. There were challenging sessions and ones where I didn’t speak for the whole session, but this was what I needed at the time.
This year, I started art therapy, where we explore important topics such as boundaries and needs through painting, watercolours, pastels or collages. I have made great progress. I am learning the importance of looking after my well-being and how I am worth more than I ever realised.
Another form of therapy I tried this year was adventure therapy. It is nature-based and well-being-centred to gain confidence and independence and find your purpose. I came out a more confident person and aware of my capabilities. I had to step out of my comfort zone each week with lovely, supportive people to guide and join me along the way.
Talking wasn’t the best therapy type for me, as I didn’t feel comfortable. However, art and adventure therapy work wonderfully because I am passionate about nature and art. If you struggle to connect or grow through counselling, maybe try another type of therapy. There are many resources and people who want to help you find yourself again.
Whatever therapy works for you, you deserve to receive it. You deserve to be heard, understood, and respected. You don’t have to fight alone. If you’ve received professional help, I’m proud of you for going on the journey. If you haven’t, I hope you find the strength within yourself to speak out. I know you have it in you. You can do it.
Voices of Hope wants you to know that you do not have to do this alone. Click here to 'find help' - it's not weak to speak!