Last Updated on February 21, 2022 by Morris Green
Therapy is a crucial mental health tool for many people. It can help individuals with challenging life issues, and, in some cases, therapy can save lives. When therapy can help people live a healthier life, what are the persistent notions that it is somehow embarrassing — and how can that stigma be removed? Here are ideas.
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There are dozens of types of therapy to treat a myriad of physical and mental conditions. Some common types of treatment include cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy for mental health and occupational and physical therapy for physical wellness.
Some types of therapy treat mind and body together, such as somatic therapy or light therapy. You may find yourself asking, “What is light therapy?” It uses lamps that emit specific wavelengths that provide physical and mental health benefits. Somatic therapy combines physical and psychotherapies for holistic healing.
Counseling and therapy have a long history. The word “counseling” first appeared in the writings of Geoffrey Chaucer in 1386. The word “psychotherapy” was born in the late 1800s to describe how people talk to a mental health provider. In the 1930s, Carl Rogers introduced client-centered therapy, demonstrating that practitioners should remain objective and non-judgmental to help patients. Therapy as it is known today evolved throughout the decades from these early concepts.
Society is struggling to normalize therapy for many reasons. Some incorrect but persistent labels include:
- Perceived weakness: For years, many people have thought of mental illness as something that those who have it can control. This notion has been disproven in recent decades, but negative and incorrect ideas can continue. People may hide that they attend psychotherapy or even shy away from it because they don’t want others to think they are weak.
- Vulnerability: Opening up about personal situations or deepest thoughts can make people feel vulnerable. It isn’t always easy to share intimate details with others.
- Judgment: People in therapy may think that the counselor judges them when they talk about their feelings. However, facing one’s problems and working to solve them is an act of courage and strength.
While there are no straightforward answers to how to end negative associations with therapy, there are ways to do so. Some suggestions include:
- Understanding the facts: According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 21% of American adults experienced mental illness in 2020. That means one in five adults deal with the condition — it is common. As a comparison, according to the CDC, 10.5% of the population has diabetes.
- Talking about it: You do not need to share details about why you seek therapy or counseling to be open about it. Simply acknowledging (without projecting shame or embarrassment) that you attend therapy can put the tool in a positive light.
- Changing your personal view of therapy: Remind yourself that it takes bravery to face and seek treatment for your health issues.
- Nurturing your health: Diet, exercise and the proper amount of sleep benefit physical and mental health. Make it a priority to take care of yourself. As you do so, stay mindful of the fact that you are caring for your body as a whole, including your mind.
- Knowing you are not alone: Therapists, counselors and others build a career on helping people because they want to. Each day they help countless individuals who are on a journey to wellness.
- Learning about the uses of therapy: Educating yourself on the conditions for which people seek therapy can increase your understanding and help you teach others.
- Being inclusive: If you meet others who have mental health issues or seek therapy for their situation, treat them equally and without discrimination.
It may take more time before society drops the stigma surrounding therapy. However, conventional ideas have changed over the past few decades. Your favorable outlook can contribute to a positive view about therapy.