Therapy has been called many names throughout the years – hocus pocus, head shrinking, mental brainwashing – each representing a specific stigma surrounding this form of treatment.
People who haven’t experienced being in counseling often think that psychologists only help people with mental illnesses or those referred to as “crazy.”
This is straying quite far from the truth. Professional clinical psychologists help people from all walks of life. But most of all, they provide aid to those who are undergoing difficult transitions in life like divorce, the death of a loved one, stress from work, relocation, and family issues.
The stigmas surrounding the practice seem to be always present, however. Most of them are born from a lack of awareness of what mental wellness truly entails.
To help clear things up and potentially break the stigma, below are five common misconceptions about people seeking counseling, and some insights on why they are considered false or inaccurate:
1. Seeking Therapy is a Sign of Weakness
On the contrary, seeking therapy actually shows how strong and brave you are. Some people may tell you that you only spend an hour a week “dealing with problems,” but the truth is that it can actually be the most exhausting hour of the week for most therapy-goers.
This is because, during that hour, they are required to open their hearts and minds and be honest about their fears and experiences. This is the only way the therapist can help them get over whatever it is they’re struggling with. Exploring your limits and accepting the fact that you need help requires insurmountable strength.
2. Seeking Therapy Means You’re “Crazy”
It’s never okay to call someone seeking counseling “crazy.” Whether they are suffering from an overwhelming wave of thoughts and feelings or a mental illness, therapy-goers should never be called using such a derogatory term, especially after mustering the courage and strength to face their problems. Doing so only heightens the stigma that makes others who need help forgo seeing a psychologist.
It is also worth noting that not all people who seek counseling have a mental condition. In fact, most are only looking for expert guidance on how to deal with the “lemons” that life serves them to prevent these from affecting their overall well-being.
Some of the changes that can potentially lead a person to seek professional help include:
- Coping with chronic work-related stress
- Career issues
- Financial troubles
- Experience with rehabilitation
- Health concerns or a recent health diagnosis
- Conflict among family members (e.g., parent-child conflict)
- Cultural assimilation
- Academic issues
- Death of a loved one
- Breakups or the end of a close friendship
- Changes within the family setup (e.g., the birth of a child)
- Getting married or divorced
- Caring for loved ones with illness or disability
- Decision-making challenges related to these life changes
3. A Therapist will Blame or Shame You
Contrary to what TV shows portray, psychologists won’t actually confront, blame, or shame you into dealing with the issues you face. These are false and inaccurate representations of what true therapy and counseling really are.
Good therapy provided by a professional is all about compassion. It entails allowing the person to go through the emotions and thoughts at his or her own pace while celebrating each breakthrough and milestone, no matter how insignificant it may seem to other people.
4. Taking Medicine is as Good as Seeking Therapy
Medicine is not a cure for all things. This much can be said for psychological issues that people face today. Although the medical model stipulates that most of these problems are due to the rise and fall of hormones and other biochemical equations, it is actually much deeper than that.
Instead of taking them as separate phenomena, psychologists look at these biochemical changes as symptoms caused by a sudden change in a person’s life. Be it divorce, career issues, or losing a loved one, emotional stress cannot (and should not) be dealt with using medication alone.
5. Talking to a Therapist is Like Paying for a Friend to Listen
People think that just because you attend counseling, you don’t have a lot of people you can trust and talk to. They believe that therapists are people who are paid to listen and act like a friend.
This is certainly not the case. A therapist’s job goes beyond listening – they provide substantial aid in their client’s quest to cope using their expertise and experience in the field.
It is also worth noting that therapy cannot be considered a replacement for friendship. For the latter, the relationship is two-way and can lead to biased views depending on various circumstances. Therapy, on the other hand, offers objective assistance regarding whatever the person is struggling with.
Therapy sessions aren’t avenues to pay someone for comfort. During these sessions, your money can only cover the psychologist’s expertise and time. The care and comfort you receive are absolutely free.
Getting Rid of the Stigma
Debunking misconceptions about psychology and counseling has been a longstanding quest for clinical psychologists.
While the road seems long and winding, the journey continues as they aim to let people struggling with emotional stress know that they don’t have to be ashamed of seeking professional help when they need it.