The Stigma Of Therapy

imagesTherapy….Counselling….Seeking Help!!!! These carry a fear, stigma and misunderstanding for many people and we really need talk about why. It is apparent that there has been a tremendous effort to get people to talk more openly about their mental health. Social media has exploded with campaigns, celebrities have come forward with personal stories and it is making a difference. I have personally sat through many talks, volunteered my time and researched so many resources I have lost count. Here is where the bottom falls out. We want people to be comfortable talking about their problems, we offer toll-free numbers as well as resources to contact but the stigma continues.

People are afraid to seek therapy, or help of any kind, but why? Of course there are many reasons, but generally they can be summed up into six major categories.

  1. Fear of Being Judged…..Many clients will admit in their first session that they resisted coming in for fear of discussing personal information about their lifestyle or struggles and being judged. This may have happened with family or friends and is expected again. A good therapist always remains professional, compassionate and never judges. They are there to help, always try to keep that in mind.
  2. Fear of Diagnosis…..The last thing you want to hear is that you have some incurable mental illness, or worse, that you will struggle with it for life. This is simply not true. In fact between 78-92% of clients who seek treatment recover from mental health issues. Much like traditional medicine, when we list our previous illnesses or surgeries, our previous mental illnesses work the same way. They don’t all stay with us for life.
  3. Fear of Opening Up To A Stranger…This is something we completely understand. Walking into a room with someone you have never met and emptying out your most personal information is never easy. It is also the most beneficial tool in treatment. We are able to make an unbiased, informed and educated assessment of your situation because we have almost no emotional attachment to you. We are able to provide you with an outside perspective that you are unable to achieve from friends and family who are directly affected from your situation.
  4. Fear of Always Being In Therapy….This is one I am most passionate about. Much like you may fear the diagnosis, you may also fear always being in therapy. In fact, our goal in therapy is to find the diagnosis and the cure as quickly as possible. Leading a healthy, happy life independently is always the goal. The amount of time spent working with a therapist will vary depending on the issues someone is working through, their commitment to therapy, and the type of therapy provided. Some people choose to continue to work with a therapist after their presenting issues have resolved, in order to further their self-exploration or begin work on other areas of their life. This choice is always up to the client.
  5. Fear of Stigma….Many people have a hard time admitting that they need professional help because they don’t want to be seen by others as “crazy,” or incapable of solving their life problems on their own. This fear of being seen as “less than” is an extremely strong force that keeps people from seeking therapy.
  6. Fear of Confronting the Issue…Let’s face it, we may know there is an issue, other’s may be telling us we have an issue, but nothing is scarier than having to go down that rabbit hole. Having a professional tell us is a whole new situation we may not be ready to deal with. Let me just remind you,  that you are the one in control behind that door. You get to decide what you want to talk about and what you are not yet comfortable with. It is a relationship built on trust, zero judgement and simply a way to a better, happier, healthier life.

If you did a Google search right now of the top reasons people go to therapy you would likely see things such as, trauma, addictions, marriage breakdown, or you are feeling disconnected. All very valid points, but there are so many positive things missing from this list.

I am just so tired of society viewing those who seek therapy as having an incurable illness. It has been far too long that we have looked at mental health and therapy as this dark entity. Let me just clarify something here. There are two very distinct sides to seeking professional help. Yes, there is in fact those who suffer intense mental illness and have to be treated aggressively.

There is also another side of therapy that helps us make good lives great.  Therapy is just as useful in the wellness model of getting healthy, achieving potential, and making a good life better. Here are some great reasons to try therapy as part of wellness and not illness.

You want to love and accept yourself – We all have difficulty with this at one time or another, and we are not necessarily depressed or suffering with some other mental illness. Therapy can help us explore roadblocks to self-esteem and teach us practical ways to make our happiness a priority.

You want to make a good marriage great – Life gets busy and our relationships can end up taking a back seat. Many relationships are functional, but are no longer fun. Couples counselling can help improve communication and strategize ways to return passion and excitement to a marriage or relationship.

You want to be a fantastic parent – Many of us, despite our own objections, revert to parenting patterns we observed in our own childhood. Therapy can help you get out of this rut and become the parent you want to be (and your children need).

You want to thrive in your career –How many of us stay stuck in a job we hate?  Why aren’t we striving for something different? Is fear, hard work, or interpersonal conflict holding us back? Therapy can be the catalyst for healthy change in your career.

You want to let go and forgive – Holding a grudge isn’t a diagnosable condition, but it does have serious physical, emotional, and relational consequences. Through therapy you can learn to resolve these issues for yourself and move on. This can be one of the best gifts you ever give yourself.

You want a place to practice assertiveness, expressing emotion, or anything else – Therapy is a laboratory for you to explore, experiment, and practice behaviors that are scary in the rest of life. Shy people can practice confrontation. Detached people can experiment with expressing emotion. When you’ve tried this out a few times in session, you may be ready to take it out into the world.

At the end of the day we really need to see therapy in a new light. Yes, it is a great tool for treating serious problems.  We  also need to start seeing it for the goodness it can offer to people’s lives and drop the stigma attached to it.

People are not judged for maintaining their nails, for making hair appointments, changing the oil in their cars, spa days, dinners out with friends, teeth whitening and tanning. We spend time and money to maintain our outer shell and beauty. We are not judged for “seeking help” for doing things to feel better about our outer beauty so why would we judge others for seeking help to feel better about their inner beauty? So, no more whispers regarding your sister-in-law in counselling, or that girl you work with. Instead, try buying them a coffee  and letting them know how inspired you are by them.

I once described my own life as chaotic beauty.  When I met my now husband I remember warning him to hang on tight because it would be one whirlwind ride. I have learned the valuable lesson that if you take the time to work on yourself, you will be lucky enough to find those who will stick around for your chaotic beautiful ride too. If you work really hard and learn to love yourself always, they don’t just stick around….they ride that roller coaster to the top screaming with their hands in the air. Don’t let stigma slow down your chaotic beautiful ride. ❤




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