You’d think by 2017 we’d have made a lot more progress toward increasing the acceptance of therapy and access to mental health. Unfortunately, this isn’t entirely the case, and there’s still a fairly negative stigma attached to therapy.
As a therapist, I get a lot of sideways looks when I tell people what I do, and it’s frustrating to be met with so many preconceived ideas of what therapy is. As rates of depression and anxiety skyrocket, isn’t it time mental health got a rebrand?
Psychologist and author Guy Winch has a great TED talk on the importance of “emotional hygiene.” He notes the way our culture erroneously prioritizes physical health over mental health and highlights the importance of taking care of our emotions with the same attentiveness that we care for our bodies.
“We sustain psychological injuries even more often than we do physical ones—injuries like failure or rejection or loneliness. And they can also get worse if we ignore them, and they can impact our lives in dramatic ways,” Winch says. “And yet, even though there are scientifically proven techniques we could use to treat these kinds of psychological injuries, we don't. It doesn't even occur to us that we should. ‘Oh, you're feeling depressed? Just shake it off; it's all in your head.’ ”
It’s pretty standard practice to go to the doctor when your body is unwell. But when you’re experiencing anxiety, depression or a difficult life change, it’s less acceptable to see a therapist. Many of my clients have shared they have at least one family member they would never tell they are seeing a therapist for fear of being judged.
There’s this idea we should just figure it out on our own when it comes to mental health. And this go-it-alone strategy reinforces another common misconception that if you’re seeing a therapist, there must be something really wrong with you. This isn’t true. I mostly work with people dealing with difficult life transitions like the death of a loved one, separation or divorce, relocation, work stress and burnout.
Seeking therapy during a difficult time means you value yourself and your wellbeing enough to do something about it. It means you’re willing to put healthier patterns into practice and re-establish balance in your life. Shouldn’t we all be striving for this?
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