Talk it Out: Parents Should Prioritize Their own Mental Health and Consider Therapy

Talk it Out: Parents Should Prioritize Their own Mental Health and Consider Therapy

Parenting is a tough job — perhaps the most difficult one many of us do — and requires physical and mental stamina during the best of times. Insert a global pandemic with a stay-at-home order, requiring you to supervise your children’s education on top of doing your day job and juggling household duties, and it’s no surprise some parents are experiencing feelings of anxiety, stress and depression. 

One antidote for symptoms of emotional distress or mental health disorders is psychotherapy, also known as “talk therapy.” May is Mental Health Month and there is no better time to evaluate your mental health and consider whether psychotherapy or another treatment option is right for you.

Heather Renz, of Fairview Park, calls it “life changing.” A mom of two, stepmom of two and health care administrator, she urges other parents to give it a try if they’re feeling anxious or need help coping with a difficult situation. 

“It’s changed my relationships for the better and makes me feel better,” she says.  

Is Therapy Right for You?

Therapy involves confidentially discussing your feelings and behaviors with a psychiatrist, psychologist or licensed counselor. 

“The way I explain therapy to my patients is a safe place in which to talk about whatever is on their minds,” says Dr. Adam Borland, a psychologist with the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Behavioral Health. “My job is to provide clinical support, feedback and tools for them to better manage whatever symptoms or presenting problems are bringing them to me.” 

If you’re wondering if you’re a good candidate for therapy, you probably are, Borland says. Anyone can benefit from therapy, but parents in particular benefit because they experience complicated marital and family dynamics, have work/life balance concerns and often don’t prioritize self-care. 

“Oftentimes, parents put their own needs farther down on the priority list,” he says. “I reassure my patients that practicing self-care doesn’t mean you’re being selfish. Addressing sources of stress or anxiety is ultimately going to make you a better parent.” 

Renz agrees. She first went to therapy about 15 years ago as a college student struggling with homesickness, anxiety and depression. She restarted therapy about six years ago to cope with a divorce and being a single parent.  

“I decided I needed to do something to be a better version of myself for my kids,” she says, noting she learned tools like walking through worst-case scenarios and redirecting her thoughts. “It’s helped me recognize my feelings better so I’m not taking them out on other people.” 

How to get Started

Before going to therapy, determine how you’ll pay for it. Most health insurance covers outpatient behavioral therapy, Borland says, noting some people have to pay out of pocket for treatment. 

“Call the number on your insurance card to get an idea of what is covered,” he says. “It’s case specific.” 

Some employers offer counseling through employee assistance programs, Renz adds. 

In any case, finding the right therapist is key. Borland says many patients find therapists by word of mouth, get a referral from their primary care doctor or by calling a local health system for an appointment. 

Once you find a therapist, determine whether you’re comfortable talking with the person. If not, it’s OK to find someone new. “That happens all the time,” Borland says. “Sometimes it’s not a great fit.”

Renz has changed therapists several times. 

“You know whether or not you feel comfortable with someone usually within the first couple minutes of meeting them,” she says. “Don’t give up right away if it’s not the right fit. The right fit is out there, and it’s OK to move around and try different people.” 

You Are Not Alone

Mental illnesses are conditions that affect a person’s thinking, feeling, behaviors or mood. They are more common than most people think, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health, because people often don’t talk about them. 

Consider:

  • 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year.
  • Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern in the U.S. More than 40 million adults in the U.S. have an anxiety disorder.

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