I was 23 years old the first time I walked into a therapist's office, and I was skeptical at best. I was raised in a household that was not only toxic and abusive, but didn't believe in "mental health" or "mental illness." People who went to therapists were "weak," according to my toxic parent, and no on in my family was encouraged to care about mental health in any capacity. That changed when I was 23, thankfully, and now that I'm a mom I'm so grateful to know better. I know there are reasons why every mom should see a therapist; reasons every person should see a therapist; reasons that are juts as beneficial as seeing a doctor when you have a stomach ache or a broken arm or an annual check up.
Sadly, not everyone has access to mental health services, so the reasons everyone — including mothers — should see a therapist, for the most part, don't matter. In a recent national poll by APA's Practice Directorate, 87 percent of Americans polled pointed to lack of insurance coverage as a barrier to seeking mental health treatment, and 81 percent pointed to cost concerns. The same poll revealed that 97 percent of respondents considered access to mental health services "important," but only 70 percent felt they have adequate access to mental health care. Between 2012 and 2013, a reported 57 percent of adults with a mental illness received no treatment. The reasons why mental health services are important become irrelevant when a person doesn't have the means (or the support or the insurance coverage) to seek treatment.
Then again, perhaps the following reasons why everyone should see a therapist, can (and should) be used as reasons to expand access to mental health services. Calling a mental health professional or seeking treatment for a mental illness shouldn't be a "last resort" and shouldn't be used in cases of emergency only. We see general practitioners as a means of prevention, so why not treat mental health professionals the same? So, with that in mind, here are just a few reasons why every mother should see a therapist, regardless, and why it's important that everyone have access to mental health services.
Your Mental Health Matters...
In general, society tends to treat mental health as more of a "buzzword" than an important part of someone's overall health and wellbeing. However, your mental health matters. Just like you care (or should care) about your overall physical health — and tend to it in order to feel your best — you should care about your mental health.
Sadly, mothers are often told that their mental health (like everything else) isn't as important as their child, their family, or anything else they have going on in their lives. In fact, mothers are encouraged to wear exhaustion, anxiety, even "insanity" as a "badge of honor," or a way to prove that they care about their family so much that they'll sacrifice everything for them, including themselves. That's completely unhealthy, and no way to live a sustainable, happy life.
...And Deserves The Same Care As Your Physical Health
If you wouldn't miss a physical check up, why would you not take the opportunity to check on your mental health, too? It's sad that the mental health stigma has positioned a trip to the therapist as something "taboo" or "unnecessary." If you wouldn't leave a broken arm alone to "heal on it's own," you shouldn't try to mend your own mental health on your own, either.
Motherhood Can Be Confusing...
I had an "idea" of what motherhood was going to be like. I read the books and asked the necessary questions and did the online research so that I could be as prepared as possible. Still, there wasn't a book or question or online forum in the world that could have readied me for everything I felt and experienced the moment my son was born (or the days, weeks, and months that followed). Motherhood is confusing, and it can be difficult to find yourself in the middle of all that change.
A therapist, however, can help. Sitting and having someone help you sort through the numerous adjustments you're experiencing (and all at once) can only aid you and your newborn (and your toddler, and your kid, and your adolescent and, well, you get the idea).
While I was so excited to become a mother, I was also terrified. I don't think I've ever been so scared in my life, as I was acutely aware of the immense responsibility I now had to a tiny, defenseless and completely-dependent-on-me person.
So not only had my life changed in both small and large ways, but I was undeniably scared and was starting to doubt myself. That's unsettling, and admitting that I was somewhat lost and unsure and in need of some guidance, doesn't make me (or anyone else who feels the same) a bad mother. It makes me a human being who can correctly identify a feeling, then work to either overcome it or fix the things around me that are contributing to it. A therapist is the perfect person to assist me in those endeavors, and in an environment that doesn't make all that work feel overwhelming.
...And It Can Be Difficult To Adjust
Pregnancy can be a difficult adjustment, and you have 40 (or more) weeks to get used to the changes your body, your mind and your emotions are experiencing. You have months on months to plan and prepare and get somewhat "used to" what you're experiencing.
Then, all of a sudden, you're a mother.
One moment you're pregnant and either pushing a human being into the world, or having a human being cut from you and pulled into the world, and then, in a split second, you're no longer pregnant. You're a mom. That's not a whole lot of adjustment time, if you ask me. When my son was placed in my arms after over three hours of active pushing, I remember feeling relieved and surprised. Here he was, finally, and yet I felt completely ill-equipped and even less prepared. I was a mom, but I didn't really feel like a mom, and it took months before I would. Having a therapist to talk through those feelings with — and to remind me that those feelings are nothing to feel guilty about — was the most beneficial.
You Deserve A Moment When Someone's Entire Job, Is To Listen To And Focus On You
As a mother, you're probably spending the majority of your time focused on someone else (or multiple people, simultaneously). I know for me, personally, I spend the majority of my time focused on my co-workers, my employees, my son, my partner and my friendships. Very rarely do I have the time to really sit down and talk about me and/or ask myself how I am doing or feeling. So, having a designated time — usually an hour — where I can sit in a quiet room and all of the focus and attention is on me, and only me, is so vital. It's not selfish; it's not insensitive; it's necessary, and something I need not only as a human being, but a human being who is responsible for another human being.
It's A Vital Form Of Self-Care
The social messaging geared towards mothers is one of constant self-sacrifice. You have to put yourself, your needs, your desires and your wellbeing on the back burner if you are to be a "good" mother. You have to do all the things, without any help, and you need to do them with a smile on your face, no matter how exhausted or anxious or whatever else you may be because motherhood is a "privilege."
Motherhood is a life choice that, in no way, erases your humanity. You're still a person, and as a person you deserve just as much self-care as anyone else. Therapy — for an estimated 59 million people who have sought out mental health treatment in the last two years — is a form of self-care that is not only beneficial, but substantial and sustainable.
Everyone Benefits From An Outside Perspective
You aren't endowed with all-seeing, all-knowing powers the moment you become a mother (and no matter how much you try to convince your kids otherwise). Mothers make mistakes and mothers can overlook certain aspects of their lives, their kid's lives, or just life in general. Having an outside perspective, cultivated and shared by a mental health professional, can assist anyone (mothers included) in seeing the "bigger picture."
The number of things I have learned in a therapist's office have only worked to make me a better person and in every area of my life. I'm thankful for the chance to see things from a different angle or point of view, and dissect certain parts of my past (and even my present) in a way that makes me better equipped to process them.
It Can Be Englightening
There's no such thing as a "grown up," because we're never done growing up. Even though I'm now responsible for another person, I'm still learning and evolving and bettering myself. Of course, I can't do that on my own. The people around me — including a mental health professional — can help me improve on a daily basis.
It Sets A Positive Example
Of course, you should see a mental health professional for your benefit, first and foremost. However, it's worth noting that in doing so, you're setting a positive example for those around you. Whether it's your parenting partner, friends, family members or your child or children, the people you share your life with see that you're taking steps to be healthy in every aspect of your life, and valuing yourself and your overall wellbeing. You're showing people that it's OK to ask for help, to rely on someone else, to gain an outsider's perspective and to take moments throughout the day or week or whenever you can, to focus on yourself and only yourself.
I know that I pride myself in showing my son that self-care is an important part of being a human being, and in no way will I ever be embarrassed to tell my son that I see a therapist on a regular basis.
It Fights To End The Stigma Surrounding Mental Health
Consider this reason to be somewhat of a bonus. You should never feel the need to make yourself a martyr for a cause, and your mental health is the most important; not working to educate the ignorant masses.
However, ending the social stigma around mental health is a worthy cause, and one that you are actively engaging in when you see a therapist. While you don't need to tell anyone that you're seeing a mental health professional or seeking treatment (because that's your medical business, and no one else's) if you do feel comfortable and safe enough to open up about that aspect of your life, you're actively demystifying what so many people feel they have to hide. Consider that the cherry on the sundae that is proudly saying you, and your mental health, matter.