We’re all subject to the judgements of society. Sometimes it’s helpful, like discouraging crime, and other times it’s unfair, like how we’re told to view certain people in need.
A stigma is the word we use to define that pre-made idea in society. The one that tells you how you’re supposed to feel about something, regardless of the reality.
But what happens when you take away the assumptions? What happens when you see the human experience for what it is – and not what it’s assumed to be?
The Human Experience
Trauma. Weakness. Shame. These are the words associated with the stigma of seeking help and taking therapy.
But what about insight, purpose, fulfillment?
Those aren’t bad things. But guess what? They’re not only valid reasons for seeking professional guidance, but real, tangible benefits you get as well. And the best part is, they’re available for everyone, even those who don’t have “serious” problems.
We’re here to tell you that therapy is not what you think, regardless of what society says. This article will help you find peace in your life by breaking the stigma – both about the idea of taking therapy, and about what needing help even means.
Psychoanalysis – Not As Bad As it Sounds
Even the term ‘psychoanalysis’ feels scary. It feels like you have to be a dangerous specimen sitting in a lab while doctors poke you with sticks.
So what does it actually mean?
Honestly, it’s a lot more simple.
Psychoanalysis simply refers to the process of examining your feelings, and determining their source. Psychotherapy is a relational process designed to provide people with the opportunity to have increased understanding of themselves in order to be able to make more informed decisions for more satisfying lives.
You know it simply as therapy.
The process of therapy not only helps treat diagnosable mental illnesses, it works just the same for any other common experience in which a person might need a little extra oomph to get through (more on this later).
Perhaps that’s why it’s catching on more than ever these days as a method of support.
Who’s seeking therapy?
Let’s see what the statistics say.
In a poll done by the American Psychological Association (APA), supported by Psychology Today, we learned that:
- 48% of American households have had someone seek mental health treatment;
- 97% consider access to mental health important;
- 59 million people (estimate) have received mental health treatment;
- Of the 47% of people taking therapy, 19% of them were without the need of medication;
- 80% of people who underwent therapy for any reason found it effective.
Basically, therapy isn’t as uncommon as you might have assumed. It’s pursued by millions of Americans, both by those with identifiable mental health issues and those without. And even when it’s not directly sought out, it’s still regarded in a positive light.
So perhaps you’re thinking that most of these people have had some serious trauma in their lives, and you feel for them, but you know that’s not you. You don’t have any major problems. Everything is pretty normal, aside from the few road bumps here and there – some fights with your family, stuck in your career, some pestering insecurities.
Remember above when we mentioned that psychoanalysis works just the same for common, relatable life experiences? This is where that comes in.
Let’s take a more detailed look at what some of those experiences are.
Things You Might Be Going Through
Some of the most common reasons that you may find yourself needing extra support are:
- Big life changes – possibly ones that are affecting your sleep, diet and social life;
- Overcoming fear;
- Trauma – either complex or seemingly small;
- Difficult childhood – which often shows itself as confusing adult behavior;
- Personal loss – like a death, or a break up of any kind of relationship (romantic, familial, friend);
- Communication issues within an existing relationship;
- Lack of self-esteem and/or confidence;
- Stagnant or aimless in life;
- Depression and/or anxiety (even the non-diagnosed kind);
- Craving a deeper understanding of yourself.
Now, the takeaway here is just because something is “common” and “relatable”, it does not mean it isn’t also challenging and confusing. But that’s the point of therapy. To untangle the confusion and provide support to get through it.
So let’s say you’re on board. Let’s say you’ve decided you need some extra guidance, and you’ve made an appointment to meet a therapist.
How will you see the changes?
This is How Therapy Benefits Your Life
Better coping skills. Emotional band-aids like drugs or alcohol, isolating yourself, or lashing out to people you care about are easy traps to fall into. But they don’t work like you want them to. Therapy gives you real, tangible skills to practice when you find yourself in need of emotional strength. Then suddenly the bad stuff doesn’t make you want to hide anymore.
Better Relationships. Romantic. Family. Friend. Yourself. Doesn’t matter. You want these relationships to be as healthy as possible, because they have the power to make or break you. Therapy will help you define the relationships in your life, and their dynamics. It’ll give you the unique tools for each one to keep it thriving, strong and fulfilling.
Hope. Sometimes you lose hope for your life to improve. Or you let go of your dreams because you can’t fathom them ever being fulfilled. Therapy is an outside, steady beacon that sheds new light on what you’re going through and offers new solutions. New hope arises, along with a reawakened vigor to move forward.
A more satisfying life. And we’re not talking about the societal benchmarks of “success” that are often confused with satisfaction. We’re talking about what happens way deeper, in the places that are left when you take away all the superficial clutter. This means gaining new perspectives on your life, learning ways to get the most out of the good times, and finding healthy ways to get through the bad ones.
Feeling more alive. Therapy won’t magically transform everything around you to make life a thrilling adventure, but it will help you transform your outlook and approach. To go after what you love, and most importantly, to recognize what your unique life needs to flourish, and make you more excited about living it.
Embracing life. Overall, therapy gives you the tools to embrace your life. To stop avoiding what you think is negative, and welcome everything that comes your way – because with the right support you can have the power to grab it by the horns and see where it takes you.
That all sounds amazing. But now you’re thinking, if therapy is that great, why doesn’t everyone already take it?
Reasons Why People Don’t Seek Therapy
Well, here are some reasons. See if any of these ring a bell.
It costs too much. If you’re in the US, it should come as no surprise to you that cost is the top reason to avoid therapy. While we can’t argue with that being a consideration, it’s important to remember that therapy is an investment in yourself and your happiness. That money is never wasted.
I can handle it on my own. You could feel pressured to figure it all out on your own, and perhaps that’s the biggest problem. It’s part of the great myth of our society – the one that tells you that you’re weak if you seek help. If you find yourself thinking this, just remember how you would respond to a close friend that was struggling and needed help from you. Would you think they were “weak” for coming to you?
I’m too busy. Think of it like this. Your problems aren’t going away on their own. Especially if you’re cultivating negative habits. You’ll benefit in the long run by designating some time right now to nurture healthier ones and move forward with fresh insights.
I don’t want to be judged by a stranger. That’s understandable. But the truth is, your therapist isn’t in this career to form negative opinions about you. In fact, one of their primary goals is to reassure you, by creating an open, supportive environment for healing.
I’m afraid of what people will think. This is the stigma talking. Aside from the fact that your therapy sessions are strictly confidential, just remember this. Even the people you’re imagining in this case have sought out emotional help in one way or another. Perhaps even from you. Seeking guidance is part of our human nature, so why not do it with someone who’s properly trained to help you?
This is the bottom line.
You are a complex, multi-dimensional person. Sometimes you struggle, sometimes you win.
Ultimately, you crave fulfillment and purpose in your life. You want healthy, thriving relationships. You want to feel successful, and satisfied.
But sometimes it doesn’t feel possible. And sometimes you don’t even try.
Therapy empowers you to go through life’s experiences with clarity, insight and wisdom. regardless of what society says.
Because in the end, who makes the decisions in your life? Who decides what should make you happy and what you should hide? You do. Not them.