Postpartum Recovery

Let’s Get Real About Therapy

Learn how therapy can benefit you most from Alyson Hempsey, a psychotherapist, coach, wife, and mama with some great thoughts on how to “thrive in mamahood."
Alyson Hempsey
Posted on
October 7, 2022
Minute Read

Let’s Get Real About Therapy (From a therapist)

I’m a huge proponent of therapy, but it’s not just because I’m a therapist. Therapy has drastically changed my life. It’s helped me change my patterns of thinking. It’s helped me identify thoughts about myself that were incorrect. It’s helped me release pain and suffering. Therapy is part of the reason I am who I am today, and I’m happier, more confident, and saner because of it (my friends and family would second this notion).

Ditch the shame

Therapy is, thankfully, becoming less stigmatized, but there’s still a sense of shame around it. People think it means you’re weak or can’t handle life on your own.

And to that I say*, You’re right! We CAN’T handle life on our own.*

No one can! We’re social beings. We need help and support from others. In my opinion, the people that refuse help because of their own ego aren’t the strong ones, the ones who come forward and say, “I need help!” are the ones that are strong. Getting help means that you’re willing to go the distance to better your life.

I know there are a lot of “unknowns” surrounding therapy, so here are some common misconceptions that I’m here to help straighten out:

“You need a mental illness in order to go to therapy” <—WRONG

The requirements for treatment are very specific though, are you ready for it? In order to benefit from therapy you need:

  2. For real. That’s it.

If you feel that you are struggling with something serious, getting therapy should definitely be in your wellness plan.

But, there are plenty of other reasons you should get therapy that doesn’t involve ****a DSM diagnosis (<– big book mental health clinicians use to diagnose peeps), such as:

  • Becoming a mama!
  • Divorce or break up.
  • Moving to a new place.
  • Missed social opportunities due to insecurity.
  • Engaging in negative self-talk… a LOT.
  • Having a tendency to blame yourself for everything.
  • Consistently picking a partner that isn’t right for you.
  • Hating your job and feeling stuck.

“Therapy is scary”

Therapy can be intimidating at first, but it should never feel scary or threatening. Engaging in therapy should feel like you’re sitting comfortably in a safe space, even if the topics you cover can be uncomfortable. The most important thing to understand is that everything that happens in your therapy sessions will be dictated by you. You get to decide what you talk about, when you talk about it, and how you want to apply what you learn about yourself.

Do I have to talk about the scary stuff?”

While a good therapist shouldn’t force you to talk about something you’re not ready to address, I will say, the dark and twisty work, the deep stuff, is the most important work you will do.

If you have some REAL dark and twisty things happening, let your therapist know that you would like to start slow. It often works out that once you get a couple of sessions under your belt, you’ll find the courage to go deeper. Or, maybe once you develop a good relationship with your therapist you’ll WANT to tell them.

I remember specific sessions where I just burst out with something I’d been holding inside for a while. Like, literally walked in the door and yelled it. You never know how it will happen, but when it does, let it.

I will say, therapy requires vulnerability and a willingness to be uncomfortable. A level of discomfort is necessary when working out deeply rooted issues. Like I said before, this is where the most important work is done!

“What if I don’t like my therapist?”

FIRE THEM. Okay, you don’t need to literally fire them, but you can absolutely switch therapists. Just let your therapist know that it isn’t a good fit. I promise they will understand.

Therapists do not take this personally. I’ve been fired. Shoot, sometimes I was happy when clients fired me (we usually know if it’s a good fit or not, too). I told my clients in our first visit that if they don’t feel like we’re clicking, please tell me and I’ll help them find someone else. **

My goal is not to be the one who changes your life, my goal is for your life to change.

If finding you a new therapist will get you there, I’ll do it! Therapists have different personalities and approaches to therapy. For example, most clients LOVED my humor and sass. Some didn’t get it. Some wanted a more gentle, soft-spoken approach. Totally valid! (but totally not me)

Don’t stop until you find someone that clicks.

“The ‘alphabet soup’ of terms is overwhelming”

So, what do all the letters mean behind a therapist’s titles? Are they something you should pay attention to? Answer: yes and no. If you’re looking for someone to prescribe you medication, the only one who can is a psychiatrist (or your general doctor).

  • LCSW: Licensed Clinical Social Worker
  • LPC: Licensed Professional Counselor
  • LMFT: Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
  • PsyD or PhD: Psychologist
  • MD: Psychiatrist

You can absolutely be prescribed meds by your primary care doctor, but if you can, I recommend going to a psychiatrist. Psychiatrists have been to medical school, but also have specialized training in mental health. That being said, wait times for psychiatrists are pretty nuts right now, so you may have no other option. Just do what’s best for you!

There are definitely helpful, empathetic wonderful psychiatrists out there but by all accounts rare. If you go to a psychiatrist, expect them to be doctors, not therapists. They are assessing which medicine will work best for you and your symptoms, not giving you advice or therapy—although some of them are great therapists too.


Don’t think that more schooling (i.e. PhD or PsyD) necessarily means you’re getting a better therapist. In fact, some of the best therapists I’ve come across are LPCs, LCSWs, and LMFTs.

Therapy is a big step.

It means you’re willing to look inward and work through some things. It’s not easy. But, like anything, the more you do it, the easier it gets. Also, like most things, you will only get out of it what you put into it.

You can have the most fabulous, educated, wonderful therapist on the planet, but if you aren’t willing to do the work, nothing will change. It’s all up to you!

The whole Down There Doc team is ready to help you with whatever we can—including what’s UP there, in your brain. Therapy isn’t magic but it’s pretty damn close.

Let us help you succeed!

Alyson Hempsey

Psychotherapist, wellness coach, cheese lover, Nordstrom frequent flier and mama. Alyson believes that we can connect to our true selves while simultaneously being a present, loving mother. She's on a mission to normalize prioritizing moms, because happy moms make happy kids.

Find Alyson at or follow her on Instagram @thehonestpeach