Growing up, we’ve all had our fair share of challenges and problems that come in all shapes and sizes. And we’ve all been pretty much told the same thing “talking about it helps”.
And personally as your average mental health advocate, I’ve always encouraged my friends to open up and do just that. I’m a great listener and I love being there for the people I care about, and the concept of getting help and seeking therapy from a friend or a professional was definitely something I stood behind and encouraged.
But when the tables are turned? Well, let’s just say I’m not the best at taking my own advice.
Therapy to me was intimidating.
And mind you, I felt like I was a burden every time I opened up to someone, and was constantly haunted by the thought of “other people have it way worse than me”.
“I’m stressed about work? Pffft; I can handle it, other people can’t even find jobs.”
“I’ve experienced a tough break-up? So what? people have their hearts broken every day. I’m no special, I should toughen up.”
“Frequent panic attacks? I’m sure I’ll get better by time. If I ignore it, it goes away, right?”
It was after good old 2020 rolled around and after the many months of quarantine had left me confused and in pieces that I started considering talking to a therapist for real. I didn’t even know what I wanted to talk about; the idea seemed like a relief, but also incredibly daunting.
THE BEGINNING OF A LONG JOURNEY
Many people consider therapy a huge stigma in the Middle East, but honestly that was never a concern of mine. However, there was so much stopping me from taking this step:
- Where would I even find a therapist who is good enough?
- How will I trust a stranger to give me advice and selflessly listen to me?
- The best therapists are all located so far away or in another city, how will I commute or find the time?
- And the big one: Where would I even start with the talking? Nothing particularly bad had happened to me recently; I’ll probably look so silly.
HOW ONLINE THERAPY WORKS
It was until that one time I was scrolling on social media, that I came across an ad for an online platform called “O7 Therapy”. As it turned out, it was a website and mobile application that provides online therapy in the Middle East and the Arab speaking world.
- You create a profile, fill out some basic info
- Using a series of questions, their matching tool recommends a therapist to you (or you can choose from their very long list of professionals).
- You schedule a session at any time you like and pay its fee online
- And then that’s it! On the day of your session you use the app to securely talk to a certified therapist for 50 minutes using your smart phone, from any place you’d like.
So basically, it’s a zoom conference call, except a rather interesting one, unlike those long meaningless online work meetings we had during lockdown.
MY FIRST THERAPY SESSION. EVER.
A couple of weeks passed of me trying to convince myself to stop over-thinking and just try it out. I have no idea why but I dreaded it and was very nervous about even creating a profile on the app.
But then I finally did.
I was rather overwhelmed by the amount of psychologists and therapists to choose from, so I tried their matching tool, and within a day I received some recommendations, that honestly were quite spot-on (what kind of sorcery is this algorithm and how did it know I wanted to talk to someone specialized in relationships).
And then I booked my very first online therapy session. And my heart was beating out of my chest for the first 10 mins, because here I am, sitting in my room at home, with a stranger on the other side of my phone, and I have no idea what I want to talk about it.
Fast forward 50 mins later: Apparently, there was a lot I had to say. Including: how on earth did I not do this online therapy thing earlier?
BENEFITS OF ONLINE THERAPY
If I could sum-up what I learned after my first session in 6 points, It would be this:
1. NO, ONLINE THERAPY IS NOT FOR “CRAZY” PEOPLE, IT’S FOR EVERYONE
That misconception and taboo needs to change, ASAP.
Whether you’re suffering from a trauma or a major mental health problem, or simply a little issue with a coworker/friend that you’d to talk about, online therapy really does help.
You’ll never know how much impact it has on your life until you actually try it.
2. IT’S EASIER TO TALK TO A STRANGER THAN SOMEONE YOU KNOW (SHOCKING COMING FROM ME, I KNOW)
It takes a stranger to recognize an irregular and unhealthy habit in your life. Therapists know how to dig deeper and come to different conclusions than someone you know who is passively listening.
3. YOU FEEL SAFE
In addition to O7 Therapy’s app being highly confidential and secure about any information you provide or tell your therapist, the session is considered a safe space; you don’t have to worry about the other person judging you when you expose your inner demons to them.
4. FOR EACH STRUGGLE, THERE’S A DIFFERENT APPROACH
Some mental health problems require initially changing our mindsets and learning to tackle them from a new perspective, while others demand a specific approach that could involve medications. Everyone is different, and no therapy course is identical to another person’s.
5. ONLINE THERAPY TAKES YOU OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE, AND WITH IT YOU LEARN NEW THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF
Amen to self-awareness.
Therapy helps you become a better person. It allows you to come to conclusions easier, to feel more peace with who you are and the people around you, and to understand every layer of yourself you’ve been overlooking.
6. YOU FEEL BETTER AFTERWARD
I felt 10 times better after my first therapy session. It’s really a time to only focus on yourself and all the things you did not realize you were bottling up inside of you. It’s mind-boggling what one session can get out of you.
SOME FINAL WORDS TO YOU, THE ONE WHO’S READING THIS
I was apprehensive for a long time, and it took me a while (longer than I intended) to reap the benefits of opening up and trying online therapy. Which is why I’m now talking to you dear reader about it. I’m nudging you in the right direction to help yourself by seeing a therapist.
Consider this article a sign that you need to start taking care of yourself. Invest in yourself first and foremost; because as we’ve always been told growing up: Talking about it really does help.