5 Key Strategies That Ensure Your Therapist Takes Your Mental Health Seriously

There is no shame, ever, in advocating for yourself.

depressed woman sitting alone PeopleImages.com - Yuri A / Shutterstock

I know that the prospect of talking to your doctor about your mental health might be daunting. It is for many people.

It’s easy to go to your PCP to talk about your physical health but going down the very scary path of talking about your mental health is another thing entirely.

An article recently posted by The National Institutes for Mental Health shares tips about how to talk to a healthcare provider about your mental health.


Those tips include starting with your primary care provider, which is an excellent idea because you already know and, most likely trust, them.

They suggest being prepared with details about how you have been feeling.

They also suggest bringing someone with you. This is another great idea because that person can share what they have seen in you and can be a second set of ears around what is said by the doctor.

Finally, they encourage you to be honest and to ask as many questions as you can.

All of these are excellent tips, but I can definitely think of a few more.

RELATED: Talking About Mental Health Issues Is Not Attention-Seeking


I am a volunteer for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). I travel all around the east coast, sharing my experience of living with a mental health condition.

During the 10 years that I have been doing this work, I have learned many tips from co-presenters as to their first steps toward dealing with their mental health issues.

While some of these tips are action based, many of them are about changing the way you think about the stigma of seeing a therapist and dealing with your mental health.


This can make all the difference.

RELATED: I'm Truly Terrified Of Telling My Partner About My Mental Health Issues

Here are five ways to make it easier to advocate for your mental health with your therapist or doctor

1. Find a therapist you can trust

If you don’t want to go through your PCP but would rather go right to the source, it’s essential that you find a therapist you can connect with.

So many people I know finally find the courage to call a therapist, and then not only not connect with them but actually feel not heard and condescended to. And, instead of trying to find another therapist, they just give up.

Luckily, it’s easier, more than ever, to find a therapist you can connect with.


Until COVID happened, we had to rely on local therapists, who could be somewhat difficult to find, depending on where we live. Once we found one, they were often scheduled really far out and once we finally got an appointment, we might not even like them. And then we just give up

Luckily for everyone, there are now many reputable online therapy services, like Better Help or Talkspace. On these platforms, you can find licensed therapists and a lot of them. They are from all over the country and, in many cases, you can see a therapist within a few days.

And, this is my favorite – if you don’t like your therapist you can just try someone else.

Also, many of these therapists are open to using different modalities to communicate, whether its text, email, phone calls or video chats. For some people, this can make all the difference in their comfort levels while talking about their mental health.


So, I hope you now see there are many options out there to find a therapist you can trust, who will see you and hear you and not jump to any conclusions about who you are or what you are struggling with.

RELATED: Why It's So Important To Find A Therapist Who Understands You & Your Unique Identity

2. Don’t worry that a therapist will judge you

Many of the people I work with refuse to go to therapy because they are embarrassed that they even need to and are concerned that a therapist would judge them.

There is so much stigma around mental health conditions and it’s so easy to think that a therapist would think you were weak because you sought help.


But that just isn’t the case.

Therapists have many years of training. They are experts in mental health conditions. They are also trained to understand and empathize with people who are struggling.

They will take the time to get to know you as a person, someone who is more than just struggling but someone who is living in this crazy world.

They will listen to you as you talk about what you are struggling with (so be prepared, as suggested in the article) and they will consider their expertise as they talk you through what they think might be helpful for you.

What they won’t do is look at you as the sum of some preset "symptoms." You won’t be lumped into some category that they have studied in school.


Each person is unique and a good therapist recognizes this and treats people accordingly.

So, don’t let your fear that your therapist will judge you prevent you from seeking help. They won’t, I can promise you that.

RELATED: The Perfect Therapy For People With Anxiety Disorders

3. Don’t assume they will just put you on medication

"I don’t want to go on meds — I will become a zombie, gain weight or worse."

I hear these things whenever someone I know is thinking about going to therapy. They are so sure that someone is going to make them take medication if they seek help.

My response – you don’t have to take any medications you don’t want to take. They might be recommended but that doesn’t mean you need to take them.


Furthermore, while some medications might have side effects, it’s not like you are going to go from normal to a zombie, or fat, overnight. Those things happen gradually. You can try the med if you are so inclined, and if they don’t feel good to you, you can try another.

I have been on medication for years. People regularly judge me for doing so. They think I am weak or that I should just suck it up or that I shouldn’t like taking medication.

But, for me, I always say that my meds raise the bottom of the pool. Before, I was drowning and, once I got my meds, I was able to touch the bottom of the pool, to keep from drowning, and then use my coping skills to live well.

So, I know that meds might seem scary and that you might be concerned about the stigma around them but know that they aren’t something that you will be forced to take.


And, if you do choose to take them, you might find them very helpful.

RELATED: The 'Master' Coping Skill You Can Activate Any Time You Feel Overwhelmed

4. Don’t feel ashamed

As I have said throughout out this article, people with mental health conditions are often discriminated against. For a while, the levels of discrimination were on par with race and sexual orientation.

As a result, people can be ashamed that they might be struggling or that they might need to seek help.

Someone might be telling them that their life is good and why do they need to get professional help – they should just get out there and exercise.

Someone else might be telling them that it’s a sign of weakness to have to lean on others to manage their moods.


Personally, I’ve had guys who are willing to date me knowing about my mental health condition but aren’t willing to date me once they know I am in therapy and on meds.

What I always tell people who are feeling ashamed at the fact that they have to seek help, that they aren’t strong enough to do the work on their own, and that being willing to seek help is a sign of strength. That you are willing to step outside of your comfort zone to seek help so that you can live a better life.

So, don’t go into therapy feeling ashamed. You should be proud of yourself for taking such a big step!

RELATED: The Secret Healing Technique Most Therapists Won’t Tell You About


5. Don’t think of what you are struggling with as 'symptoms'

Mental health conditions are often looked at as "an illness" or "a disorder." Things that are diagnosed and treated.

There is even a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual that healthcare professionals use to diagnose and treat mental health conditions.

I believe, however, that mental health conditions should not be labeled as a "sickness." I believe that they are just one more thing that human beings struggle with.


Because mental health conditions are still labeled as a "disorder," people are often asked what their "symptoms" are. I always encourage people to refrain from labeling what they are struggling with as "symptoms." To reframe how they are feeling as, well, feelings.

Perhaps they are feeling down. Or lethargic. Or hopeless. Or suicidal. Or anger.

Perhaps they are frustrated, scared or sad that they aren’t sleeping or that they don’t want to hang out with their friends or that they have no appetite.

While these things are often labeled ‘symptoms,’ don’t think that there is anything ‘wrong’ with these things. That you are ‘sick.’


Yes, many mental health conditions are genetic and the result of a chemical imbalance in our brains but that doesn’t mean that people who struggle with their moods have a 'disease.’

They are just a person in the world, doing their best to live their best life.

Just because their moods can be hard to manage, that doesn’t mean that they need to label as "ill."

So, I would encourage you to not look at how you are feeling as symptoms. They are your feelings and they might not be positive ones but that doesn’t mean that you are unwell!

I believe that so much of it is about the state of mind.

Once we find a doctor we can trust, it’s time to push back against all the subjective, societal perspective around mental health that has defined it as a weakness or sickness.


You are a human being in the world who is struggling right now. And seeking out help when we are struggling is what we do.

Especially when we need help with supporting our mental health.

RELATED: Why All Men Need Therapy, According To A Male Therapist

Mitzi Bockmann is a certified life and relationship coach. She has over 10 years of experience in helping people find happiness in life and love.

Editor's note: If you are struggling with severe mental health symptoms or suicidal thoughts, please reach out for help immediately. In the USA, 988 Lifeline is available 24/7 and totally free. You can also reach out to the SAMHSA hotline for mental health and/or substance abuse support.