For me, 2014 was a year of defeat that led to significant growth; financial struggles, a separation from my now ex-husband, job loss, homelessness, and the death of a dog. Thus far, it has been one of the most challenging years of my life, but one that catapulted me into growth. This was the year that helped me to explore the woman inside that I had no idea existed and introduced me to the new woman in me who was desperate to break free. 

I was depressed, and my separation from my then-husband triggered untreated wounds from childhood I didn’t realize were present. During this time, it seemed as though negative energy was strangling me, and any breath of hope I had for the future was dying. In an effort to relinquish the many insecurities I had from a failed marriage, I entered into a situationship with a person who was emotionally abusive and manipulative. Initially, my concept of love and relationships were distorted due to unhealed trauma. I was unaware of the damage, engaging with this person, was causing in my life, but I knew something was off. Call it intuition, the subconscious mind, or the voice of God, I knew that the way I was carrying on in life and the behaviors I was accepted in my relationships needed to change. 

So fall of 2014, I sought out a therapist. Now at the time, I was jobless and unemployed, but I knew my mental and emotional health was still a top priority. I started through my church, which offered free counseling sessions. I did a few sessions there, but the particular style of therapy wasn’t for me. I sought out other counseling services and came across the Samaritan Counseling Center of Atlanta. They offer clinical mental healthcare services for people on a sliding scale. I only paid $25 per session and went twice a month. 

2014 was life-changing for me. My experiences during that time were necessary for me to enter into a new chapter of my life. I owe therapy for birthing a new me. It’s now 2020, and I continue to do therapy. It has become a regularly used tool in my life.

Here are 5 ways therapy changed me for the better:

Peace with my inner child 

The inner child is a part of your personality that still reacts and feels like a child. For many of us, our experiences growing up has wounded this part of us. I discovered unhealed trauma in childhood was the reason for a lot of my distorted relationship views. Therapy helped me to assess that the adult feelings of worthlessness and feels of being unlovable were my inner child crying out for help. I discovered a lot of the reason for my reactions and insecurities was because my inner child was working to protect me from hurt. My inner child was acting out of survival and not love. Therapy helps me to make peace with “Lil Alisha” through various tools (More on this in a later article). I have now started to “re-parent” my inner child to establish more peace within myself.

Challenging thought patterns 

Therapy helps me to recognize and challenge negative thought patterns. Negative ideas cause me to self-sabotage, thus hindering me from living my best life. Most of these negative thoughts stem from unresolved issues deep within. The way we see the world is based upon childhood and experiences. Therapy has helped me identify ideas that do not serve me. Through dialogue with my therapist and learning self-compassion, I have learned to decrease and address thought patterns that are not conducive to my personal growth. 

I am more self-aware.

Self-awareness is defined as “the conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires.” Talking through situations with my therapist has given me the ability to be more aware of myself, my needs, my motives, and my feelings. Therapy helps me to assess different aspects of my experiences and personality. This is the most self-aware I’ve ever been and it feels amazing. 

New ways to handle conflict

Before therapy, I was passive-aggressive and unable to articulate my needs to other people without being emotionally manipulative (just being honest). Was I malicious in my intent? No! But I definitely didn’t know how to handle conflict in a healthy way. Before therapy, I honestly didn’t know a healthier way to express myself existed. I grew up in a household where respect was demanded. Unfortunately, in my household, expressing one’s self as a child was deemed as disrespectful. So I learned to express my needs through anger, avoidance or using guilt. Through therapy, I’ve found better ways to address issues, I’m aware when I’m being passive-aggressive, I address it, and try to think before I react. I check in with myself first to figure out my contributions to the present conflict. Solving conflict in a healthy way continues to be an area of growth that I continuously work on. 

A safe place to vent

Thank God for friends and family who are willing to listen to us in times of struggle, but sometimes you need an unbias listener. My therapist gives me an unbias and nonjudgemental ear. She is honest about my issues and is not afraid to address things that may hurt my feelings. She always remains neutral and offers me different perspectives to help reshape and challenge my ideals.

I treat my mental health as my physical health. Going to the gym and making sure I’m physically fit is just as important as going to my therapist and making sure my mind is in the best shape possible. And just like physical fitness, to maintain your achievements and get better, you have to keep at it for the rest of your life.

Therapy is now a must for me.