The word “therapy” often invokes a feeling of unease; it is a word associated with weakness or often times, insanity. But get this: There’s nothing wrong with seeking for necessary resources to elevate yourself.
In a world that throws around terms such as “bipolar” and “OCD” to describe people who can’t make up their minds about what to order at dinner, or to mock those can’t stand a messy desk, mental illnesses are seen as something that’s just “in your head” or a consequence of being “too sensitive”. It’s no wonder that this public stigma is so deeply ingrained in many individuals, creating a barrier from proper, professional treatment of mental health disorders. This is a vicious cycle: as this damaging stereotype circulates, more are inclined to accept this as a norm and ignore their needs.
Contrary to what the media has prompted you to believe, going to therapy is not laying on a reclining couch while the therapist notes down your every thought. It’s also not like Dr. Phil where you’re put in a position of blame and public shame. Here are a few, but certainly not all, myths about seeking therapy:
4 Myths about seeking therapy
1. People who seek therapy are weak
Seeking therapy is a sign of self-awareness and power. It is recognizing that you can improve yourself with the support of external resources, and being proactive in catering these services to your needs. Strength is needed along every step of the way. Opening up your mind and heart routinely and being unashamed of your thoughts and experiences is emotionally demanding and even daunting. Exploring your boundaries and living by them requires self- assertiveness.
2. People who seek therapy do not have loved ones
Going to therapy is tied with the belief that a therapist replaces the role of a friend or of a relative. It is assumed that the person seeking support is isolated and lacks profound connections, which is the reason behind hiring a therapist. In reality, the relationship between a client and professional is vastly different from one between friends. A friendship involves giving and receiving, and the exchanged advice is based on past experiences. On the other hand, a therapist is certified in guidance and simply focuses on you and your specific needs.
3. People who seek therapy had a definitive moment which brought them here
You don’t need a certain experience or turning point to make you “qualified” for therapy. There is no checklist of items that you need to meet in order to go to therapy, and everyone has different valid reasons for seeking professional support. It’s okay to begin looking for services at any point, and what you wish to get out of therapy can evolve with time too.
4. Therapy is only for treating mental illnesses
Just like how a healthy person may run into some health issues, such as weak knees or back pain, a person with no mental disorder may experience emotional difficulties from time to time. There is a number of reasons why people seek psychological services, and no two people go in with the same purpose. Mental health is a spectrum, and a person may land anywhere on that spectrum.
Counseling is a powerful tool to aid one’s development, but personal and public stigma attached to seeking psychological services is a deterrent that makes it a heavily underused resource. We need to keep the mental health conversation alive, be comfortable with integrating it into our daily lives, and ultimately erase any associated stigma.