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Personal Growth Is For Everyone

Personal Growth Is For Everyone

At OpenCounseling, we believe therapy is an essential tool for personal growth and that everyone should be able to use it for exactly that purpose. Sure, therapy is one of the best methods for treating mental health conditions, healing trauma, and helping you overcome negative thinking and behavior. But therapy is more than just symptom management. It's more than just treatment for when you're not well. Therapy is for personal growth, and personal growth is for everyone.


We know society might make you think otherwise. Insurance will cover therapy for the treatment of a mental health condition, but it won't cover therapy for personal growth. Therapists who focus on personal growth tend to charge high rates and to not accept insurance. Retreats and workshops designed to help with personal growth can cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. The message you get when you start shopping for help to address your yearning to grow is that working on your personal growth is fine if you're rich and have a lot of free time, but not if you're a working person on a budget.


Screw that. We're all here to grow as people, and at OpenCounseling, we think everyone should be able to get therapy to help them do just that. We believe you should be able to find affordable therapy whether you have a mental health condition or just a vague sense that something is missing. Therapy can help no matter where you are in your life.


We want you to think more broadly about what therapy can be. Therapy can help you answer your deepest questions, recover a sense of personal authenticity, and feel excited about life again. It can give you the tools to unlock your greatest potential and become the best possible version of yourself. And we want to help you learn how to do just that.


What Is Personal Growth?


Let's start with the basics. What is personal growth? It's a vague term that's easy to dismiss. It's impossible to measure, making it anathema to scientists, researchers, and mental health industry gatekeepers. It's not entirely a bad instinct to treat it with skepticism, as those qualities make it rife for abuse. People with minimal skills or formal training can set themselves up as "personal growth coaches" and charge people hundreds of dollars for not much at all.


But personal growth is real, however vague and hard to pin down it may be. It's the intangible process through which you go from surviving to thriving. It's what happens to people who used to be unhappy in a dead-end job and are now doing what they love and making more money than they ever thought they could. It's the elusive factor that helps you finally walk away from bad relationships, embrace a new spiritual path, or find a new passion. It's something we all want, even if we don't always know what to call it or how to get it.


Part of what's vague about it is that it's different for everyone. Sometimes personal growth comes from learning a new skill or philosophy. Sometimes it comes from developing more courage or self-confidence. Sometimes, it comes from uncovering an entirely new sense of self, or even just from shedding the doubts that kept you from being who you really are in public.


While the process of personal growth can't be measured, the result is nearly always a measurable change in how you live your life. It can manifest as simply as finding a new hobby or as extravagantly as quitting your job, breaking up with your partner, and moving overseas to do something you've never done before.


Despite all these differences, there is one common thread in all personal growth journeys: self-knowledge. Personal growth is what happens when you get to know who you really are and start to live your life from that knowledge.


When Do You Need Help with Personal Growth?


Usually, by the time you're in your late twenties or thirties, you've developed a sense of self that's rooted in suppressing or denying at least some authentic parts of who you are. You might pride yourself in your timeliness, for example, when deep down, being on time really doesn't matter that much to you. You might make excuses about why you're in the job you're in even though you hate it and dread going to work every day. Or you might think of yourself as just "a mom" or "a dad" when, while you love your kids, you know there's more to your life—and you—than that.


Maybe you feel at odds with the person people praise you for being. Maybe you're a "helper" who feels invisible in that role. Maybe you're in a sexless marriage or a loveless relationship. You might tell yourself these compromises you've made are as good as it gets. Thank your ego for that. It's perfectly content with maintaining the status quo. In response to whatever isn't working or doesn't feel good, it busies itself with keeping your mind off of it and saying, "This is fine."


But on some level, you know it's not fine. Maybe you've developed a mental health condition like anxiety or depression as a result of trying to manage the parts of your life that aren't working. Maybe you've gotten caught by an addiction or compulsion that's starting to harm you. Or maybe you simply have a vague sense that something isn't right or that something is missing. But on some level, you know your life needs to change.


How Can Therapy Help You with Personal Growth?


Psychology isn't exactly short on theories about what causes personal growth. Most of these theories revolve around the idea of the subconscious. Nearly every psychoanalytic theory says a lot of what drives us lies beyond our conscious awareness. According to psychology, we rarely know our own motives. We often feel conflicted about, if not downright horrified by, our deepest desires, if we even know them at all. Therapy can help you heal this inner divide by giving you the tools you need to know, accept, embrace, and love your true self.


You can get walled off from what you really want, know, and feel for a lot of reasons. One of the big ones is other people. Even if they don't outright say they think that something is wrong with you, your friends, parents, and partners can react in ways that make you feel guilty or ashamed for feeling, thinking, talking, or acting the way you do. But even if your family or home life is encouraging, just the experience of going to school or work can cause you to start shutting down.


Over time, the person other people know you as starts to diverge from the person you know—or once knew—yourself as being. Sometimes, you're aware of it, but sometimes, you start to identify with your false self and forget who you really are. The result is that you lose touch with joy. The longer you spend trying to shoehorn yourself into a life or self that isn't who you really are, the more tired, numb, and disconnected you become.


Therapists can help by guiding you to and through your subconscious. They can help you find lost parts of you and piece the puzzle of self back together. They can scare the monsters out of your mental closets and arm you with what you need to defeat them. They can guide you in your journey to uncover desires, passions, and dreams you buried so deeply it would have been almost impossible to find your way back to them on your own. Step by step, your therapist can help you learn more about your true self and heal the fears and doubts that keep you from embracing it.


One of the most healing aspects of therapy is being known and accepted by your therapist. Your therapist is interested in and will embrace your whole self—including and especially the parts you hide from everyone else—with open arms. What makes this possible is the special nature of the therapeutic relationship.


Good therapists are curious, empathetic, and want to help other people feel better. This, and the fact they don't know or rely on you outside of the therapy office, allows them to regard with openness what other people resist or reject. Being able to be known like this by another person helps you know, and start to accept, yourself in the same way.


What Are Your Options for Affordable Therapy?


We've covered lots of different ways to find affordable therapy on our site. In general, we encourage people who have insurance—whether Medicaid, Medicare, or private insurance—to use it if they can, because co-pays are generally less than out-of-pocket rates. If there's a good therapist who's a good match in your insurance network, that's often your best option.


However, we also believe it can be worth it to not use insurance. Why? We believe that finding a therapist who's a good match is essential for good therapy and that insurance isn't a great option if it blocks you from finding the right therapist. If you can't find a therapist who's a good match in your insurance network, but you can find someone outside of it who is, that might be better, especially if they offer a sliding scale. You might pay a little bit more to get a whole lot more out of therapy.


We also encourage you to be creative and explore local options for affordable therapy. Outside-of-the-box places to look for an affordable—or even free—therapist include university therapy or psychology departments, charitable or nonprofit organizations serving specific groups (such as veterans or trauma survivors), and your state's public mental health system.


However, nearly all of these options have the same catch. They're almost always focused on providing therapy to treat mental health conditions. Which is great if you have a mental health condition! But if you don't, and just want to see a therapist to work on personal growth goals, you might not meet the criteria to be accepted by free or low-cost therapy programs in your area, and you probably won't be able to use insurance to cover therapy. (We still encourage you to explore all these options before assuming a specific therapist or program isn't an option for you.)


Where Can You Find Affordable Therapy for Personal Growth?


Sliding-scale therapists can be an excellent option if you're looking for therapy for personal growth, but whether you can find a therapist who's a good match and whose sliding scale is truly affordable depends on where you live and how lucky you are. For this and other reasons, we believe this is where our sponsor, BetterHelp, can really help.


BetterHelp does not accept insurance, but for that reason, you won't have to justify therapy as mental health treatment to use their service or to be able to qualify for financial aid or a discount. All you need to get discounted therapy through BetterHelp is to want therapy and to meet the income parameters to receive a discount. (Note that BetterHelp may refer you elsewhere if you have a severe mental health condition or are in or at risk of a serious mental health crisis.) And BetterHelp's expansive roster of therapists can help you find someone who specializes in the methods or approaches to personal growth that will work best for you.


I won't lie. When I signed up for BetterHelp, I was a little depressed, but not to the point I met criteria for a depressive disorder. I was seeking therapy for personal and spiritual growth. And the therapist I found through BetterHelp was—and is—an amazing match who has helped me grow. No one even remotely like her was available in my local community, and I doubt I'd still be in therapy, and still be getting so much out of it, if I hadn't found her.


Of course, when I signed up for BetterHelp, it was before the pandemic. There are more online therapy options now. You can use search engines to find therapists who offer online therapy sessions through their own websites or an independent platform (note that to be able to receive online sessions from a therapist, including on BetterHelp, your therapist has to be licensed to practice in the state where you live). Many community counseling agencies and public mental health programs are now using teletherapy, too.


But I won't be surprised if after you compare all of your options for therapy for personal growth, signing up for online sessions with a BetterHelp therapist is still your most affordable option.




Treating mental health conditions and working on personal growth goals can often be the same thing, but not always. When you want to change specific aspects of your life, or even just suspect something isn't quite right, it isn't always because you have a mental health condition. The good news is that you don't have to know whether you do, because therapy can help either way. The bad news is that whether you meet criteria for a mental health condition can determine whether insurance covers your therapy or if you qualify for low-cost therapy programs in your area.


We don't think that therapy for personal growth should be gated off the way it is. Certainly, we believe that people with mental health conditions should be able to access affordable therapy, but we also don't think access to therapy should be limited to people who are in crisis or battling severe symptoms. We don't think therapy should be relegated to symptom management alone or even that this is where therapy really shines. We think therapy can help everyone heal on the deepest levels in their lives and that everyone should have access to that.


We want to help more people use therapy to find and become the best, happiest, versions of themselves. And we know that one of the major barriers to therapy is cost. This is why we recommend and share information about many different ways to find affordable therapy, from seeking free therapy at a university counseling department to using the public mental health system to finding community clinics and sliding-scale therapists through our site's database.


But we think in the particular case of finding affordable therapy for personal growth, online therapy companies like our sponsor, BetterHelp, can be the best option. Unlike restrictive insurance policies or grant-funded agencies with stringent eligibility criteria, BetterHelp doesn't require you to fit a diagnosis to get affordable therapy through their platform. So, if you don't think you have a full-blown mental health condition, or aren't sure whether you do, but are searching or yearning for something better, we encourage you to explore all of your options for affordable therapy and to be willing to give online therapy a try. It just might change your life!

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Stephanie Hairston, MSW
Posted on 02/14/2021 by Stephanie Hairston, MSW

Stephanie Hairston is a freelance mental health writer who spent several years in the field of adult mental health before transitioning to professional writing and editing. As a masters-level clinical social worker, she provided group and individual therapy, crisis intervention services, and psychological assessments. She has also worked as a technical writer for a medical software company and as an editor for a company that appeals denials of insurance coverage for behavioral health treatment. As a writer, she is motivated by the same desire to help others that brought her into the field of social work and believes that knowledge is one of the most essential recovery tools. She strongly believes in the mission of OpenCounseling and in making therapy accessible for everyone.