“Therapy” is often regarded as an unsavory word, viewed as an admission that someone’s not totally together.
But here’s the reality: There’s absolutely nothing wrong with needing or wanting to get help.
Mental health is a landscape that many people still don’t understand (in fact, only 25 percent of people with mental illness feel that others are compassionate toward them). The term “bipolar” is casually thrown around when someone can’t make a decision on their hairstyle, or folks call themselves “OCD” when they feel the need to organize their desks. Mental illness is viewed as something that’s “all in your head” or you should be able to “just suck it up.”
The disregard for mental health disorders isn’t just a societal issue, but a treatment one. Research from the Association for Psychological Science suggests that mental illness stigma acts as a barrier to proper treatment. In other words, the more the negative stereotype is perpetuated, the less likely people are to seek support when they really need it. If you go to the doctor for a physical problem, why shouldn’t you be able to go to a psychiatrist or psychologist for an emotional one?
Many people believe that therapy is only for people who are dysfunctional, but that’s simply not true. “Most people who initiate counseling do not have a serious mental illness. They have serious life challenges or are going through difficult life-cycle transitions that may be taxing their current ability to cope,” clinical psychologist Dana Gionta, Ph.D., writes in a Psychology Today blog. “This, in turn, may be adversely affecting their well-being and ability to function as well as they would like.”
Another related common misconception is that once you go, you’ll be stuck going forever. This idea reinforces the stigma and could prevent people from giving the process a chance, according to Gregory Dalack, M.D., chair of the department of psychiatry at the University of Michigan.
“Some people believe therapy is always about uncovering life history and talking and talking and talking with no way of getting to solutions or ways to approach problems,” Dalack told The Huffington Post. “While some forms of therapy are open-ended, others can be more focused on helping you manage the issues at hand over a relatively short period of time.”