In 2021, I would hope that mental health is no longer seen with a stigma, and therapy seen as just another tool just to help us to live a healthy and balanced life. Unfortunately, when I hear comments from clients or family members, I realize that, maybe we haven't come as far as I think and maybe people don't understand what therapy is. I'm going share 5 comments that I have heard repeatedly through the years, which tell me that many people have these thoughts and I will try to address each one.
1- "I'm not crazy, I don't need therapy."
In all my years I have never referred to any client as crazy, Maybe my schedule or my week, even my family but never a client. In my experience it is usually people who are very sane, who see that something in their life is not going as they had hoped and look for the tools to better help them to navigate life. You hopefully wouldn't wait until you have a heart attack to go to the Cardiologist and hopefully you seek a therapist before you might be heading to a breakdown.
2_ "I can't help it. I am________________" Or " I have _________."
Fill in the blank. I am bipolar, obsessive/compulsive or I have anxiety or depression. You are not your diagnosis. The whole idea of therapy is to help you find coping strategies to help you manage your symptoms. There is a thin line between acceptance of your struggles and believing that you will never be able to handle the situations in your life. Most people have coping strategies, because you have probably been dealing with these issues long before you met me. Some of these strategies are adaptive and some are not. I work with clients to build on the ones that are working , shed the ones that are not and teach a few new ones.
3- "Give me advice, Just tell me what to do. "
There is no one size fits all answer to life, ahhh but wouldn't it be nice if there was. Believe me sometimes it is tempting to give advice but that is not the therapist's job. It is to make and communicate observations, ask questions and provide that safe space that hopefully helps you to find your answers. It is to teach skills such as communication skills or coping strategies, maybe meditation and mindfulness techniques. My answers are not your answers and there is not just one way to live a healthy and complete life.
4- "I've tried therapy. Nothing can help."
When you have been dealing with uncomfortable feelings for an extended amount of time and everything you have tried hasn't helped, it can be frustrating and feel like there is no hope. I promise you, you are not the first person who has felt the way you're feeling and you will not be the last. If you have tried therapy before and it hasn't helped, I'm sorry, but that does not make it a foregone conclusion that it never will. I am always careful to respect my colleagues but maybe you went to someone who wasn't a good fit, wasn't experienced in your issues or maybe, you weren't ready at the time. I find many of my clients, if they are motivated and put faith in the process and do work outside of sessions , they can usually see some changes within 3 months and substantial change in 6 months. How many therapists does it take to change a light bulb? One but the light bulb has to want to change. If you are ever in therapy and don't feel that you are making progress talk to your therapist about it.
5- " I refuse to take medications."
I respect everyone's right to make an educated choice on their healthcare. Refusing before you have even been advised is not making an educated choice it is putting up a wall to something that might be helpful. I am not a proponent of pushing medications but I have seen their usefulness. Some more severe mental health issues might require being on medications for a lifetime, but more often than not, it can be a useful tool while you are learning some more permanent tools. I have also worked with patients who prefer not to stay on medications to use meditation and mindfulness to help them to reduce or even eliminate medications, including medications for medical issues like high blood pressure. I believe in being over-meditated rather than over-medicated. You want to talk to your medical provider and come up with a treatment plan that meets your needs and are comfortable with.
There is not shame in needing therapy at times in your life. We spend a lot of time and money to learn about the world, why wouldn't we make the same investment to learn about ourselves, improve our relationships, or remove the obstacles we might be putting in our path that prevent our full potential? If you feel things that you don't like or understand, or you just believe that things could somehow be just a little easier, please reach out for help and contact a local therapist.