The way therapy has been portrayed on television recently would make anyone shun the process. The stigma of going to therapy is still strong; it’s not something that people will readily tell you about, or let you know when they’re going. In some circles it is acceptable and invited, but in others it can be shameful.
While I am biased, as I think anyone can benefit from introspection and personal growth; therapy doesn’t have to be limited to crises or major problems.
What I see most in my office are people who should have come in sooner. But they avoided it, tried to solve their problems on their own, talked to friends or loved ones about how they are feeling, etc. All of that is great; nothing is bad about that per se, but the belief that one is a failure if not able to solve his or her own problems is the problem.
So I thought I’d break down some common myths or obstacles that I’ve encountered.
I can’t go to therapy because I should be able to solve my own problems.
We hear messages and absorb expectations that we have to be strong, self-reliant, and self-sufficient. We make that mean that we can’t ask for help, we must solve all of our own “problems,” and no one should ever see us sweat. Don’t be vulnerable. Don’t show “weakness.”
First of all, why? What’s so bad about seeing others struggle? In fact, aren’t most successful movies and books about overcoming struggle and showing incredible resilience? It’s human to struggle, to falter, to make mistakes. It’s also human to learn, figure stuff out, and change. As humans we are biologically wired for connection and are social beings. We like to help each other in a reciprocal way. If every single person were selfless, how would giving and receiving ever actually work?
Also, therapy is really not about solving problems. It’s not actually a therapist’s “job” to solve your problems. I know- that makes no sense. A therapist’s job, depending on the therapist and their philosophy, is to help you identify thinking patterns that are the cause of your problems. When you identify how those beliefs and thoughts influence your actions, you can start to make different decisions and then solve your own problems.
I can’t go to therapy because I don’t have time.
We do what we make time for. Everyone is always busy. However, teletherapy is now even covered by insurance to make accessing support more easy and convenient. Yes we are all busy, but since you’re also smart, you can figure out how to log on to a portal and have a lunch session (I can’t avoid the snark, sorry).
It’s too hard
Therapy can be hard. And fun, fascinating, helpful, validating, supportive, interesting, etc. You get the chance to get in touch with yourself in a way you can’t, won’t, or don’t when you’re racing through your life at 100mph. However, life is harder when you don’t like yourself and engage in behaviors that are self-destructive.
While we are centuries removed from our Puritanical roots as a country, selflessness is still very ingrained. It’s part of military culture as well. However, for individual civilian functioning in the 21st Century, taking care of ourselves is essential, as we are busy-holics. Everyone’s always flying around their lives with little time to reflect on feelings, decisions, and more. It’s the “put on your own oxygen mask first” principle. If you can’t breathe, how will you help others put on their masks? We recharge our electronics, we implore our children to rest, we will tell our friends to take care of themselves, but somehow those rules don’t apply to us. Let’s call BS on that.
There is still a stigma around mental health, but there is also more awareness. You don’t have to broadcast your therapy appointment. It’s your business, and you’re allowed to set boundaries around how you spend your time.
I can’t go to therapy because all you do is talk about your feelings and that’s a waste of time.
Yes, feelings are discussed in therapy because as stated above, there is little room in our culture for them. We have to numb, buck up, avoid, and pretend. When we repress our feelings, they often find a way to come out in other areas: snapping at our kids, road rage, getting sick, or picking a fight with your partner about something insignificant because you’re angry about something else. You’re displacing your feelings from one thing to another, compounding the negativity in the end. This really isn’t helpful or productive, although it seems easier at the time.
Give yourself permission if you need it. Permission to face your fears. Permission to grow. Permission to change. Permission to just be in a place where you don’t have to be anyone other than yourself.