​Is Therapy Justified, And What Can I Get Out of It?

Posted by Lauren Presutti in Life After Paralysis on May 25, 2022 # Lifestyle

TherapyMany people in the spinal cord injury community think mental health therapy might be justified in the early days or weeks after their traumatic, paralyzing accident, but not later in life when everything is relatively stable. Sometimes movies like Girl, Interrupted (1999) and TV shows like Shameless (2011) portray individual or family problems that leave some people thinking, “my problems aren’t like that, I don’t need therapy.” Some feel as though they have to be experiencing a certain level of emotional distress before therapy is justified. This is a complete fallacy. Therapy can benefit anybody – there is nothing too small or too big to talk about. For individuals with paralysis and their family members, therapy might just be the perfect space for you to process everything you have going on (whether it relates to paralysis or not!).

Even if everything relating to your paralysis is stable and you are managing it well, your everyday emotional experiences are valid and worthy of being explored and processed in a safe space with a trusted therapist. We all need someone to talk to from time to time. Some people find relief from symptoms associated with depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive tendencies, or behaviors like people-pleasing, perfectionism, or self-criticism, while others seek therapy to work on their self-worth so they can better understand their strengths, skills, and capabilities. Others come to therapy to learn coping skills, strategies for stress relief, interpersonal skills, or skills related to distress tolerance, mindfulness, managing negative thinking patterns, or fostering greater internal peace. Similarly, many people learn about self-care in therapy, which helps them prioritize their own needs and find greater balance in life. Many people also experience improved relationships after participating in therapy because stronger communication and interpersonal skills are developed through the counseling experience.

Therapy can also provide a greater sense of hope, optimism, and belief in your ability to manage the ups and downs of life. Sometimes therapy is the best outlet that a person can access because it provides a confidential space to express and regulate emotions. We can often feel mixed up with a variety of emotions in life that can feel overwhelming from time to time. Therapy allows you to verbally process what you are going through, which can sometimes lead to a greater sense of control. Other times, the work in therapy is centered on accepting things that are beyond your control, which is just as valuable for internal peace and happiness.

Perhaps most importantly, therapy often leads to people feeling more empowered. Many people with spinal cord injuries experience barriers in life that cause discouragement from time to time. Therapy allows them to identify these barriers, learn ways to tackle them, and as a result, develop a greater sense of personal pride and appreciation for themselves. Therapy also provides clarity and can help people embrace a greater sense of self-understanding, purpose, and clearer life goals.

If you feel like therapy can be helpful for you, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for help. Check out local resources in your community or start a conversation with your doctor. To maintain a healthy, fulfilling life with paralysis, it’s so important to attend to the needs of both your body and mind. It’s also important to check in on each other, such as your family members or caregivers. Nobody is exempt from mental health, so don’t be afraid to start a conversation with the people in your life about how they are doing on the inside. Talking about what we all struggle with allows us to better connect with each other, and it helps to normalize asking for help. Always remember that whatever happens in life, you don’t have to face it alone.

To learn about River Oaks Psychology, visit www.riveroakspsychology.com and follow River Oaks Psychology on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.