Guy walks into a psychiatrist’s office: my first therapy session

‘Whatever happened to the strong, silent type, like Gary Cooper?’ Tony Soprano asks his shrink, frustrated that a man of his stature finds himself in therapy. People started realising it’s good to talk. That’s what happened, T. Mates, family members, partners are all great outlets to share and halve a problem. But some issues and […]

Guy walks into a psychiatrist’s office: my first therapy session

By Ste Turton

‘Whatever happened to the strong, silent type, like Gary Cooper?’ Tony Soprano asks his shrink, frustrated that a man of his stature finds himself in therapy. People started realising it’s good to talk. That’s what happened, T.

Mates, family members, partners are all great outlets to share and halve a problem. But some issues and concerns are best tackled by seeing a professional, who can offer expert insight and advice. Especially if you’re a neurologically impaired mob-boss.

The stigma of seeking treatment for mental health is definitely disappearing. Celebrities are opening up regularly on their personal anxiety and depression battles, with tv and podcast producers putting out an array of excellent material on the subject. And it’s working. Record numbers of people are reaching out for some form of talking therapy, while the topic is filtering into every day conversation.

At the same time, depression is still the leading cause of disability world-wide, while suicide remains a global epidemic. Close to 800,000 people are taking their own lives each year (World Health Organisation). Still plenty of work to be done, then.

You don’t need to be feeling suicidal to want to speak to someone about your mindset, either. It wouldn’t take being paralysed to see a physio over a bad back, would it? With the government last year pledging £2bn of the £20bn health budget to mental health treatments, it’s never been more normal and encouraged to asses your inner feelings. Treatment on the NHS doesn’t require a diagnosed mental health problem and you can easily now refer yourself by phone or online. A number of different sectors are waiting to help with anything from panic attacks to phobias or obsessional thoughts.

A couple of weeks ago, I got myself involved in treatment. Following some daft financial decisions that didn’t pan out, I was left with negative feelings I hadn’t experienced for a while; shitty thoughts bouncing around my head like a pinball that I couldn’t shake. I’d done some counselling for binge-drinking a few years back but never ‘got on the couch’ with a proper psychiatrist. It seemed the right time to have a gab.

Choosing to go down the private route, I jumped on one of the many online counselling directories and ticked a few relatable symptoms, before hitting search. Pages of reasonably priced, local therapists popped up in response, listing a range of qualifications and interesting head shots. After a few WhatsApp exchanges with my chosen guy, I was booked in for a fifty minute introductory assessment the following week.

The days leading up to the session contained mix feelings. Initial excitement for professional analysis on how my mind works slowly gave-way to creeping doubts about the whole arrangement. I’m from a steady home with a good education; good circle of friends and girlfriend who I’ve always been able to talk openly to. I started to think of the child soldiers out there, carrying the scars of war. Victims wrestling with the aftermath of abuse. Suffering Man United fans. I’d fortunately never been through a tragic loss, or even a relationship breakup that wasn’t on my terms. What the fuck did I need to open up for?

After flirting with calling the whole thing off, I decided to keep the booking. Within minutes of the session I was glad I had, swiftly realising the severe circumstances of others are completely irrelevant to wanting to fix a few mental defects and behavioural patterns of my own.

The therapist was sound; a middle aged male from the region who asked me a few questions about what I’d been going through recently. He covered a lot of ground; gave some interesting takes on my concerns, offered useful analogies and theories on some of my bad habits and even touched on a couple of mildly traumatic events in my teens that I hadn’t revisited for some time. The office was relaxed. No sofa, just two leather arm chairs facing each other that created a comfortable environment for natural interaction. No mention of wanting to sleep with or murder my mam, a la Sigmund Freud. Which was a bonus.

Growing up I’d viewed psychiatry almost as a luxury for the rich and famous. How else could Frasier Crane afford that nice suede Chanel sofa in his penthouse? In reality, the initial assessment and recommended six follow up sessions were reasonable. With some of the councillors I’d browsed offering appointments for just over a score, and the National Health Service deploying more mental health workers than ever, therapy is now available for anyone who feels they need it. You can even receive support on your laptop or smart phone, if the one-to-one setup seems a bit daunting.

As for what others think of you visiting a shrink? ‘Who cares about the shit people say that they don’t have the balls to say to your face?’…

Some conditions won’t simply be solved by talking. But a conversation’s a good place to start.

Browse The Mind Map’s list of therapy options here

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