Crazy. Shame. Weakness.
These continue to be messages that prevail about therapy and those who participate in it. They are powerful, so much so, that, studies suggest that a third or more of the people who could benefit from therapy, do not seek it out. (Rector, 2014)
The stigma continues even as those who take the leap and seek counseling are usually surprised by how ordinary, comfortable and yet profoundly helpful it can be.
Instead of trying to outline all that has been written on this topic, I thought I'd just share a few thoughts about how I look at therapy and how I think it works. I hope that it helps challenge any preconceived notions you may have about therapy that are keeping you from taking the next step.
Of course, the usefulness of therapy is influenced by the training and temperament of each counselor, but I've always appreciated the additional value that therapy can provide just in the nature of the therapeutic setting:
Why Therapy Works
1. It is a space that is just for you to focus on you.
This can be especially useful for “caregivers” or “people-pleasers” who are often neglected by themselves or others, or are disconnected from their own wants and needs.
2. A relationship where you don't have to worry about filtering what you say or what the repercussions of sharing may be.
Friends and family can be great supports and can be helpful to talk to but, depending on what you are struggling with, having them be your main support can put strain on the relationship or lead them to “caught in the middle” between you and another mutual relationship. With your counselor, it’s safe to be open and unfiltered.
3. An active and experienced listener who's only agenda is to understand and direct treatment based on your goals.
Even if your friends or family members are comfortable supporting you, and the content of your struggles do not strain relationships, their own biases and “blind spots” can keep them from maintaining objectivity. A good counselor is not only skilled and experienced but also has done their own therapy. This helps them assist and support you without their own “stuff” getting in the way.
4. An opportunity to sort through your thoughts and feelings aloud, instead of in your head.
As you may know, it’s easy to get into an unproductive headspace. Your attempts to think about your problems can end up being extended periods of worrying that usual increase anxiety, frustration and hopelessness. If you’ve been trying to try to handle things on your own, it could be due to the fear you have about reaching out. Do yourself a favor, ask for help . Two heads are better than one.
Next week: How to get started