It doesn’t happen quite as much as it used to, but you still see it: someone mentions she’s in therapy, and everyone gives a polite smile, an awkward cough, and changes the subject. Moving forward, people can treat the person who said they’re in therapy extremely fragile—like they can’t handle a real, grown-up conversation. The reality is that the person in therapy might just be the strongest person in that circle—especially if everyone else in that circle shies away from the topic of therapy. Then those individuals clearly have some issues to contend with. We need to stop seeing therapy as a dark little secret to be tucked away and never discussed or to assume everyone in therapy is unstable. Here are stigmas around therapy that need to die.
Therapists want you to stay unhappy
If you know someone who has been in therapy for years, you might think that their therapist is intentionally keeping them there, so they can keep cashing those paychecks. I mean—how long can therapy really take?
Keeping you isn’t good for business
Do you want to know what’s good for a therapist’s business? A client who graduates from therapy, and goes out into the world and shows people how much happier and emotionally healthier they are since completing therapy. Therapists want to get you to a place in which you don’t feel you need therapy anymore. That’s the best review you can give a therapist. And, as for how long therapy can take. Hmm…Let’s see…If you’ve been making mistakes for decades that have been harming your emotional wellbeing, it’s not so strange to think it could take a year or two to undo those.
Therapists are obsessed with your childhood
Some people think all therapists are just obsessed with your childhood—that they just copy the idea of digging into your childhood, because that’s what all the other therapists do. Maybe therapists have some weird…like…fixation about childhood.
They’re onto something
There’s a reason therapists ask about your childhood: it’s when you were the most gullible, vulnerable, and easy to influence. You personality and beliefs weren’t formed yet. You were just a chunk of clay and your experiences and the people around you were shaping you. The things you heard and saw as a child landed deep, deep in your subconscious. You may not even realize they’re there anymore.
Therapy is only for the mentally ill
Many individuals think that if you go to therapy, you must be really messed up. Like “Single White Female” messed up. Like Robert De Niro “Taxi Driver” disturbed. Many individuals distance themselves from someone if they say they’re in therapy.
Therapy prevents mental illness
The reality is that going to therapy when you feel yourself losing some control over your thoughts and emotions, or when you feel like you could use a little help, can prevent mental illness from taking over your life. The characters in movies like “Single White Female” could have benefited from going to therapy years earlier.
Therapy is only for those in a crisis
We often see our friends go into therapy when they go through a divorce, lose a loved one, go through a breakup, lose their job, or experience some other type of crisis. This can lead us to believe that therapy is only for those extremely difficult times in life.
Therapy prepares you for every part of life
While therapy can be quite beneficial when you are in a crisis, there are benefits to going, even when life feels stable. Attending therapy when things are calm can help you get a better understanding of your own mind, and your reactions to the things that happen to you. It can actually help you better cope with crisis when it occurs.
Therapy is for privileged people
We’ve all heard the argument, “Well how come people in third world countries don’t need therapy?” And the assertion that therapy is for privileged, wealthy people who are bored and have too much time to self-reflect.
Shouldn’t we aspire for more?
The argument that people in third world countries don’t need therapy is absurd. They are too focused on just trying to stay alive. But when people do have their basic physical needs met (shelter, food, water), they can do incredible things. Nobody could be an astronaut, doctor, or scientist if they couldn’t feed themselves. We need to put importance on the protection and nurturing of the human mind, rather than think, “So long as you’re breathing, you shouldn’t complain.” That kind of thinking won’t advance humankind.
Talking to a stranger is weird; that’s what friends are for
Some individuals simply object to therapy not because they object to talking about their feelings, but rather because they object to talking about their feelings to a stranger. They say they have friends for that.
Your friends are biased
Your friends have skin in this game. They don’t want to point things out to you about your behavior and patterns for fear of offending you, and losing your friendship. A therapist is an unbiased observer. Oh, yeah, and a medically trained professional who can understand your actions on a level your friends (though you love them) cannot. A therapist isn’t afraid to tell you what you’ve been doing…well…wrong. She isn’t afraid of losing your friendship.
Therapy is a waste of money
Therapy can be expensive. And some people can see it as a waste of money because, hey, it’s not like you can’t continue to do your job and carry out basic tasks without it, right?
Therapy is a great investment
Let’s look at a meta example first: all of the celebrities who wind up in rehab after total breakdowns. They have to pass up on multi-million dollar projects because they didn’t attend to their mental health early, when the signs of an impending breakdown were coming. You may not be a celebrity, but you have work to do. And if you don’t take care of your emotional and mental wellbeing, you, too, could have to take a long time off work later. Isn’t it better to just go to therapy a couple times a month than rehab for three months straight?
Therapists get in your head
There is this paranoid notion that therapists get in your head and control your actions. After all, a lot of people in therapy start sentences with, “Well, my therapist says I need to…”
They’re just placeholders
Therapists are just placeholders until you get a better handle on your thoughts and reactions. They may need to be in your head because the person who was there before (you) wasn’t doing a great job at running your life. For a while, you may need to ask yourself, “What would my therapist do?” but eventually, it’ll become second nature and you’ll just ask, “What should I do?”