8 Nigerians On Finding Good Therapy In Nigeria

February 19, 2021

So right after we published a piece on the worst therapy experiences Nigerians have had, we received requests urging us to write about the more positive experiences Nigerians have also had with therapy. While the issue of access, structure, and cultural perceptions are still huge contributors to Nigeria’s poor mental health ecosystem, therapy in Nigeria has also proven to be immensely helpful for some Nigerians. 

Below we speak with eight Nigerians whose mental health has greatly improved through the help of good and professional therapy sessions.

Mowa, 20

I started therapy in January of 2020, primarily to deal with anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. I had gone to therapy once sometime in September 2019, but I didn’t like my therapist, she gave me very weird vibes, so I never returned, but things got really bad in December, so I got a different therapist and tried again. Sessions were the best part of my week. A time to decompress and share what was bothering me to a person who doesn’t know me and I know won’t talk about my issues to other people. She was so nice and funny and easy to talk to that it felt like I was talking to an older friend, so when she’d give advice or recommendations they were easy to think through and adapt to my life. 

Laraba, 30

I fell into a depression nearly a month after I was attacked at the EndSars protests. After a particularly horrible week of crying and suicidal ideations, I reached out to a therapist in Abuja to help me work through things because I knew I was getting too close to irreparable damage. We had our first meeting in-person, I was a bit nervous at first but I think I was put at ease when I saw that the therapist was young and probably in my age bracket. The first thing we did was a breathing exercise and I knew immediately that I was going to enjoy seeing that particular therapist. I’d gone to therapy before but it was online and with a therapist in the US and I can definitely say that I had a better experience with the Nigerian lady I saw in Abuja. I think maybe the fact that she was familiar with the Nigerian context/life made the difference? I don’t know. There was a lot of tears of course as well as a lot of going back to revisit old traumas and familial wounds but she very supportive. And when I try to be smart and wiggle my way out of dealing with really tough issues, she was able to see through my bullshit and firmly yet gently call me out on it. My sessions with her are over but I’m thinking of booking another one because I’ve had a really horrible week and I dealt with something a week ago that really triggered some suicidal thoughts. It’s not as bad but I think I still have some shit to work out.

Ofeh, 25

My very first encounter with good therapy came after a string of bad sessions with the psychiatrist I was seeing at the time. The therapist who provided the great therapy experience was so kind to me. For one, she is queer and was also a woman. And not just that, she was also a feminist. Sessions with her were great because she didn’t judge me, she didn’t try to convert me, she also understood anxiety. I know it is crazy to say that because it is her job, but I have seen therapists before her, and even after I met her that only understand therapy by how it works in the books but not how it manifests within the lives of their Nigerian patients. My therapist not only had an understanding of what mental illness should look like in the book, but she also had a grasp of what it could look like within the context of what it means to be young and Nigerian today. Another plus was that she was within my age bracket so it was very affirming to talk to her. I genuinely felt like I was actually going to therapy and relieving myself. At a point, I actually got scared to see her because I would be so open. I used to think I liked to talk, but by the time she made me open up, I was like na, “this tew much”.  But at some point it became expensive so I had to find another alternative. So I think there are good therapists in Nigeria, I wish more people had access to it.

Tomisin, 24

I’ve been in therapy for almost a year now. I guess because I was already open to the idea of therapy it was easy for me to get into it and also my parents kinda saw me deteriorating and they offered to pay for it so no financial stress there.  I go for therapy at least once every two weeks, sometimes once a week. It’s become the safest place I can think of, the only place I feel the burden of being alive almost taken off me. It’s also the same place I face all my demons, past trauma, and current issues. I’ve worked through some of them with my therapist. Like remembering my rapist’s name, something I had buried for the longest time, and being able to at least identify the pattern that had brought into relationships since. It has helped me manage my anxiety better too. Most people that knew me well in 2018 can testify to the difference in my personality and how I manage situations today. Not like therapy works for everyone if we are being honest, but I think my therapist is really good at his job.

Ruth, 26

My first exposure to therapy was in 2017 when I was working at a therapy and coaching company. In the beginning, I found it intrusive and demanding.  It forced me to go to places I had buried deep in me and to confront things I had kept hidden for a long time. Before therapy, I thought it would I would simply talk about my problems and the therapist would tell me what to do, but I found that that wasn’t the case. What therapy does is force you to examine issues you are dealing with and to come up with solutions yourself. The sessions I had really helped me with the self-image issues and anxiety I was dealing with at the time and I have come a long way in terms of improved self-confidence since then. Although with the entire problems that came with 2020, I had a relapse, I went back to therapy and so far I haven’t had any anxiety attacks and I generally feel a lot better

Anuli, 23

I literally struggled and still struggle with mental health issues. I had a turbulent childhood and it was pretty difficult especially because therapy isn’t as conventional as people on social media especially Twitter make it seem. Basically, I relied on youtube, motivational messages, music, and movies. A couple of months into my stay abroad, I knew I was losing it. I spoke to a friend and he recommended a therapist who works with MANI.  I’d expected to pay for the sessions, but he was kind and told me it was for free. I cannot explain just how helpful those therapy sessions were. I’m still on it anyway, but my mental health journey has improved remarkably. I haven’t had nightmares in months and with each day, I grow even deeper and in tune with myself. Feels like the inner child in me is healing and I’m here for it. Also, maybe out of context, Nigerians need to stop making mental health issues seem like some demonic attack. There’s a spectrum and it can be severe or mild, but whichever way, all mental health issues are valid. Whether it’s depression,  anxiety, or psychosis. All of them are valid. You can’t pray away everything.

Deborah, 25

Therapy for me was a lovely experience. The therapist was attentive to my needs and present through it. The therapy was handled virtually, on the first day I literally just balled for the first 30mins and she was really patient and gave me the space to cry. We talked about childhood trauma, my experience with my molester which was the main issue I had sought help for, it had happened years back but the effects were only just resurfacing, even though I had carried the shame and guilt for a long time she helped me see that it was not my fault and I was only holding on to my hindsight bias. Now, I feel really good and more aware of my shortcomings and how to handle them. I am not as worried about things I cannot control and do my best to be present. My greatest takeaway from going to therapy was journaling, especially journaling about gratitude, I was carrying so much emotional heavyweight and constantly beating myself up that it took a toll on a large part of my life. Focusing more on my emotional growth, career growth has made moving forward easier.

Vee, 25

I started therapy in 2019. I was really sceptical because it was a government hospital – that’s what I could afford at the time – and I didn’t really know what to expect. I just went with it because anxiety was kicking my ass and I needed any lifeline I could get. Honestly, it’s the best decision I ever made. My therapist was patient and super kind when I was finding it hard to open up to her. I moved states just before the pandemic and she told me I could always reach out for phone sessions – at no charge – since it would be hard for me to build trust with another person. She walked me through the anxiety from COVID-19, the death of a loved one, unemployment, and all the shittiness I experienced in 2020 for free. I’m convinced she’s an angel. Now things aren’t exactly great for me but I’m handling it a lot better and it’s because I got help. I’ve been off my medication for a while and I don’t feel like I’m drowning anymore. Therapy really saved my life. I recommend it to everyone.

Nelson

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