Why is therapy so stigmatizing?
Updated: Mar 11
We don't talk openly about counseling and therapy as a society that much. It's gotten better but we are scared to tell people that we go to counseling or that we need help. Why is that? In this post I explore some reasons for that.
According to information provided by Bradley University in 2014, 43.6 million Americans 18 years or older experienced some sort of mental health problem. They broke down those numbers further saying that 9.8 million had a serious mental illness (SMI) and 33.7 million had any mental illness (AMI). Of those with a serious mental illness, 6.7 million or 68.5% received counseling in 2014. Many are seeking treatment and yet many more are not....
“Why is mental health treatment so stigmatizing? ”
I ask the question again because with numbers like these it is clear the problem can't be ignored.
We are a society that is afraid to ask for help
Living in another country for the past six months has sincerely highlighted what it means to really be "American". One thing I am noticing is the, "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" mentality that I am applying to most challenges in my expat life.
I am theorizing here that the same mentality is applied to mental health. It can be viewed as, "weak", "unnecessary" and "shameful" to seek any type of counseling or mental health support. And yet seeking that support out is the opposite of those things. It is implies a sense of bravery, a willingness to shed some light on your own dark places, and necessary to grow as a human being.
We don't know how to ask or where to start
I've had the opportunity to work with many different types of clients over the years. Court mandated clients, young children, adolescents, families, etc. They all have something in common--- many of their concerns were about areas that they were unsure what to ask/ or where to start.
Counseling is a confidential practice and so unless you've been you don't really know what to expect. You don't know where to start looking, how to find a good counselor or even that finding the right counselor should be like finding a good pair of shoes. You don't always buy the first pair and it is really important to make sure it is a good fit.
We are scared to shine the light in the dark places
Our brains are designed to literally help us run away from danger. So why would we willingly elect to go digging through the dark places inside? It is a good question and the answer is easy and complex. We do it because that is the quickest path to shining light in. We sit with our dark places in therapy because we don't want them to run our lives anymore. Ironically, by being with them, we heal them and they fade.
My goal as a counselor/therapist is to take small steps to help us erase the stigma. In my perfect world people would seek support from trusted and trained professionals in their world on a regular basis.
If any of this resonated with you or you are looking to potentially connect with someone to help you look at some of those darker places, consider setting up a consultation with me to see if we might be a good match. You can do that here.