Do I Need A Therapist To Recover?

The state of mental health care – at least in the west – is such that many in our community have a difficult time either locating a therapist that specializes in treating anxiety disorders, or accessing professional mental health help for economic and other reasons.  This leads many to ask, “Do I need a therapist to recover?” While the help of a trained, experienced professional is certainly helpful, we have to look at what happens when that isn’t possible.  Lauren Rosen and Kelley Franke from the Purely OCD podcast join me this week to talk about this problem and to explore options, alternatives and possibly helpful strategies for when accessing professional therapy proves difficult.

Disclaimer: In this podcast episode we attempted to address a problem we all know exists and to be realistic in our assessment of what options there may be for someone that has to “do recovery” on their own.  We simply cannot provide you with a definitive answer as to if you need a therapist or not. That answer is based on so many individual variables that without knowing you there’s just no way to provide black and white answers to that question.  What you read, hear, and see in this episode is meant as general guidance and for informational purposes.  Only you can judge what is right for you in the end.

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The Highlights

  • Often people can’t afford treatment.  Therapy is expensive!  On top of that, laws in the US restrict where therapists can practice with state lines being a barrier in many instances.  So even if you can afford therapy it can be difficult to locate an anxiety or OCD specialists that can even legally take you on as a client.
  • When someone reaches out to Kelley and there is no viable path to work with her legally, or financially, sometimes there can be a referral to various self-help OCD books that she trusts and has used. Those can be a starting point for self-directed treatment.
  • While books can provide the basics, we have to recognize the nuance in therapy, especially when treating OCD.
  • Sometimes people do much of the work of recovery on their own, then access professional help to for the “finishing touches”.
  • Limited access to therapy is not just a US problem.  This is a problem all over the world, so even when reaching out from another country to a therapist or counselor you find online, there are usually laws that prevent that therapist from treating you.
  • There are many different ways of treating various mental health conditions – including variations in exposure type therapies. That means that you may find variations from one therapist to another, but even WIDER (and sometimes wilder) variations in recovery messaging on the Internet.  Does anyone remember the guy that insists that celery juice cures OCD?
  • When you are using self-help materials and find yourself getting lost in the weeks because you really want to focus on the specifics of your fear or your exact worry in the moment, try to go back to the guiding principles you’ve found in that self-help material and apply them. That can be difficult when emotions are running high, but that’s a good plan to keep in your pocket.
  • When doing self-help treatment on your own, beware of the pitfalls of becoming obsessed or overly focused on getting it exactly “right”.  This is where professional help can help steer you clear of the idea that you must or even can do treatment perfectly.
  • Another common pitfall of self-help recovery is compulsively consuming anxiety, OCD or recovery material all day long on the Internet.  This can lead to confusion because the Internet is full of misinterpretations and misapplications of foundational concepts.
  • Self-help recovery can also accidentally become counterproductive when you access online support that isn’t aware of some of the nuances and complexities of anxiety recovery techniques.  Often, basic human nature and the desire to be kind are great, but not really helpful sometimes.
  • Interesting, two trained therapists that are also close friends that both struggle with OCD do not see “supporting each other” as always urgent and important, which might sound horrifying when you are in the habit of running to your Internet support groups for emergency help because it feels so important to get it immediately.  That’s a great illustration of the nuance and sometimes counterintuitive nature of professional help.
  • Once you’ve been through treatment, you can certainly support yourself. Kelley and Lauren have both seen people do tremendous work on their own, then engage with therapy to “finish the job”, and the goal of any therapy is to get you to stand on your own, so there is good news in the fact that even people that do access therapy from the start don’t stay there forever.  That’s not needed.
  • Much of what you accomplish in therapy is actually accomplished OUTSIDE therapy! Yes, a therapist would guide you but you are generally doing the heavy lifting yourself anyway.  Take heart in the fact that no therapist fixes anyone. People fix themselves.  A therapist makes it easier and less risky in many ways, but in the end you are the one doing the work of getting better.


Links of Interest

Find Lauren and Kelley on the Purely OCD Podcast

Find Lauren on Instagram

Find Kelley on Instagram



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Intro/Outro Music: "Afterglow" by Ben Drake (With Permission)


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Founder and host of The Anxious Truth Podcast. Former anxiety disorder sufferer. Now fully recovered and dedicated to providing no-nonsense, straight-forward, actionable advice on how to overcome anxiety problems.