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Mental Health Awareness Month

By Cassie Cacace

For many people, therapy is associated with being “broken.” I put this in quotes because that couldn’t be further from the truth! While it’s normal to seek therapy when we face challenges, we can also use therapy as a preventative measure for those inevitable future stressors and to creatively explore our relationships and the world around us. Therapy doesn’t have to be a last resort. In fact, I believe asking for help is one of the most courageous things someone can do.

One of the many benefits of therapy is having a safe space that is just for you, where you will be heard without judgment. There is a beautiful concept in Irish culture called Anam Cara. This is sometimes translated as “soul mate” or “soul friend” and is described as a “compassionate presence” where “two people connect and are open and transparent” (“Anam Cara,” 2022). Humans are hardwired for this sense of connection. As babies, we must be connected to a caregiver to survive, and this need for connection continues long into adulthood. We can find an Anam Cara in many relationships, and there is something powerful (and even sacred) about the vulnerability and acceptance that comes with the therapy process.

My hope is that we continue normalizing therapy and continue healing our families and communities. Below are some practical steps you can do this month, and long after, for Mental Health Awareness.

  • Listen to listen. This one is a challenge for a lot of us. There is something powerful, and even sacred, when two (or more) people sit in a space and listen to one another without fear of judgment and without fear of fixing. Don’t jump to solution-finding. Don’t listen to respond. Listen to listen!
  • Pay attention to the words you use. What words and tone do you use if someone confides in you that they are having a hard time? Be sure to use your words, tone, and delivery to convey that you care deeply. Be gentle and kind to others and to yourself!
  • Identify supportive relationships. This is not limited to your immediate family and can include anyone you want, like friends, coworkers, or spiritual leaders. It’s up to you. The goal is to identify folks around you who are good listeners, who you trust, and who you feel comfortable talking to if you need help. 
  • Normalize therapy. If someone confides in you, and you don’t know what to say, you can always normalize and/or recommend therapy. Therapists can be helpful even when you aren’t in a crisis. There is no shame in going to therapy, and asking for help is a bold act of courage.
  • Practical support. Finding the right therapist can be an overwhelming task. Here you’ll find a breakdown of the different kinds of mental health professionals, ways to find a therapist, and important crisis information.

Different kinds of mental health professionals (NAMI, 2020)

Psychiatrist: a psychiatrist is a Medical Doctor (MD). Some psychiatrists provide therapy, and some do not. Be sure to ask ahead of your appointment what you can expect. They can prescribe mental health medications. Other providers who can prescribe mental health medication may include Mental Health Nurse Practitioners and Primary Care Physicians. Always talk to your doctors to see if you might need specialized care.

Psychologist: a psychologist is usually trained at the doctoral level, meaning they have a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. Psychologists can provide testing, assessment, and many provide therapy services as well.

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT): a LMFT has a minimum of a master’s degree, with some pursuing doctoral level work. They are trained specifically to work with systems, including couples, families, and individuals. LMFTs usually take a systemic perspective, meaning they will be curious about your family, your culture, your region/state/country, spiritual/religious, work, school, and global issues that are impacting you and your partner/family.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW): a LCSW has a minimum of a master’s degree, with some pursuing doctoral level. Social workers can provide therapy, and they also have knowledge of local support systems and resources for the community or often work in these agencies in the community.

Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC): LPCs also have a minimum of a master’s degree, with some pursuing doctoral level. They are more like to approach mental health from an individual/traditional perspective, rather than a systemic or relational perspective.

Ways to Find a Therapist

Once you’ve thought about what kind of mental health professional fits your needs, how should you go about finding them? The internet is a vast space when it comes to mental health. The following websites can be a good starting point for your search. You can filter your search with your zip code, insurance, preference for in-person or virtual sessions, and more. I also recommend calling a few therapists to see who you feel comfortable with. Much like finding a good doctor, it is also more than okay to switch therapists if you realize they aren’t a good fit for you or your family.

Psychology Today

Mental Health Match

Gottman Referral Network (for couples therapy)

Inclusive Therapists

Therapy for Black Girls

Latinx Therapy

National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network

Important Crisis Information
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 988
There is also a live chat on their website, as well as many other helpful resources: https://988lifeline.org/

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