I declare today (or any day) Mae's Hug-A-Shrink day.
I wasn't able to find any one definitive National Mental Health or Therapist's Day, although I did find the following: March 27 has been declared by the American Bar Association’s Law Student Division as Mental Health Day. Funny.
I think as a society, we need to be more aware of the importance of mental health. Along with that, we need to get over the stigma of Anxiety and Depression (the two I'm most familiar with) along with all other mental disorders and diseases.
In college I finally realized that I suffered from (sounds so martyr-ish) Anxiety and Depression so I started seeing a counselor (therapist, shrink, psychologist, whatever you would like to call it). I was directed to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
"Cognitive-behavioral therapy is based on the idea that our thoughts cause our feelings and behaviors, not external things, like people, situations, and events. The benefit of this fact is that we can change the way we think to feel/act better even if the situation does not change."
You would be amazed at the values and moral codes we have defined for ourselves that cause us a lot of grief, stress, and unhappiness. I'm not talking about values as defined by the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those have always made me happier and all of my therapists have supported my individual faith. I'm talking about, "My house should always be spotless even though I have young children" or "I should always get 100% on everything or I'm a failure" or "It doesn't matter what I do, I'm just like this and I can't change it even though I should". Should's are very dangerous "automatic thoughts". "I should do this, because it's expected." Expected by who? And does it really matter if you're pleasing them when you're not fulfilling yourself?
I believe whole-heartedly that even the most well-adjusted person can benefit from therapy. It is one of the most important things you can do for yourself to feel better about yourself and in turn be a better person. This allows us to be better servants of the Lord, also.
It's not an overnight process. Each time I go, and with each different therapist I've seen, I have grown in tiny ways. But each of those ways build upon each other. Who knows, maybe for you it is a short process. But I make everything more complicated so it's taking me a little longer.
Therapy has a stereotype of the patient lying on the couch, not looking at the therapist, while the therapist asks, in a drippy, syrupy voice, "How does that make you feel? What do you think about that?" While I have been asked these words by therapists, it was always in a context that made sense and was useful, not "Duh! If I knew that, I wouldn't be here!"
And each type of therapist has a different approach. I am proactive. I like to go to a therapist and say, "Here's what I'm facing and what I don't like and would like to change."
Example: I'm always late and I realized it's because I'm always anxious about starting something, even if it's just going to the grocery store or rolling out of bed in the morning and facing the day. So in realizing this, I can work on why I'm anxious and then slowly work on overcoming the reasons for me always being late (Brian, you'll appreciate that one day when I'm finally on time!)
I've read some self-help books, but since I can't explicitly apply them to my exact circumstances, I have a harder time changing myself. I've also had a couple therapists that just weren't right for me, so I stopped seeing them. One suggested numerology (yeah, that's right, numerology). Needless to say I stopped making appointments with him. Another I wasn't able to be proactive enough with - we apparently tacitly agreed to tiptoe around the really sensitive stuff. (I learned this from a latter therapist, that it's tempting for a therapist and patient to succumb to this...but if you find the right one, they can keep away from this). I don't need a therapist to vent and talk to. That's what I have sisters for. And they're free! (I'm always here if you need a listening ear, but there's only so much that I can help you with before it's time to see a counselor. If you need my phone number, email me. Think Bobby McFerrin.)
How did I find my therapists? The first time, before the web became a primary source of info (yeah, it was that long ago) I just called my HMO and said, "I would like to see a therapist. How do I do that?" And they transferred me to the Mental Health department. I didn't even know there was one! Another time I talked to my bishop and he recommended a great counselor. Down here, I just said a prayer, went online to my insurance provider's website and found one that was in my area. The first one I found was a dud (the numerology guy) but the next one I found was probably the best I have ever seen. Currently, because I'm without insurance, I am seeing someone at my University Health center and she's wonderful. And free.
I have gone through LDS Family Services, also. As their web page states, "No one is immune from challenges in this life. When social or emotional challenges arise, help is available."
How have I paid for it? Most of the time my insurance covered the majority of it. If you have basic health insurance that pays for part of your prescription drugs, than I'm sure you have some sort of mental health coverage. Or call your provider. Don't be afraid to say, "No, I need to know the co-pay. Don't give me the run-around. This is information that you can give me, don't tell me otherwise." If it's too confusing, give me the numbers and I'll make the calls for you.
The couple times that my insurance did not pay for it my parents gave me probably the best gift they could give me and paid for it. (Not that this route will help you, but I would be remiss if I didn't thank them publicly for their support.) Keep this in mind - You may think it's expensive, but think how expensive it is being unhealthy. Plus, usually with my co-pay I was only paying $20 per visit.
One last thing - A psychologist is a therapist that deals with counseling you. A psychiatrist is mostly there in the capacity to prescribe the right medication for you. They can also provide counseling services, but usually they are more expensive. In case you were wondering the difference...
So please, do yourself a favor and seek counseling. If you're dealing with stress at work, in the home, with friends or school, a long term illness, a new diagnosis, moving to a new place, a counselor can help.