Often when people come to therapy there are a couple of things that I notice.
One, some people joke with me about how they must be crazy to come to therapy. Or they are quite curious to find out if I think they are crazy. Trust me, you are not crazy. I tell them that everyone else who chooses not to seek help for issues are the crazy ones…not the people sitting in my office.
Two, people think they are alone in their experiences, troubles, life transitions. They think that they are the first to sometimes enter my office with those issues. But they are most definitely not. They are not the first, and they are most definitely not alone.
I want to share with you a quote from the article by Dana Gionta, The Stigma of Therapy: I Don’t Need a Psychologist, I’m Not Crazy.
Over the years, I’ve heard many creative names for therapy, quite reflective of the various stigmas. Some of my favorites are hocus pocus, mental brainwashing, and headshrinking. Now hocus pocus sounds kind of fun, perhaps because of its magical association. Unfortunately, to this day, the realm of therapy or counseling still remains quite mysterious to most people, somewhat like a magic trick. What really happens in that room? What do they do? Will I still be myself when I leave. If I go to a therapist, does that mean I’m crazy, weak or a failure? What will others think? What if I’m seen coming out of that kind of office? Such concerns are quite natural given our socio-cultural conditioning. Unfortunately, as a result, many people decide not to pursue counseling despite experiencing significant emotional, physical or mental distress.
Let’s clarify a few things. 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. This, in turn, may be adversely affecting their well-being and ability to function as well as they would like. Examples of serious life challenges can be dealing with chronic work-related stressors; career issues; financial problems; health issues or a recent health diagnosis; family or parent/child conflict; cultural assimilation; and academic issues. Examples of difficult life-cycle related transitions can be the death of a family member or friend; the ending of a romantic relationship or close friendship; family/couple changes related to the addition of a child; getting married or divorced; caregiving for loved ones due to illness or disability; and decision-making challenges related to these life choices.
These are just some of the reasons why people decide to go to counseling. So, if you are going through one or more of these challenges at the same time, you’re not alone. The effects are often cumulative, which is generally referred to as a ‘pile-up’ of stressors. Counseling during these times can be quite helpful in providing both the support and skills to better address these life challenges. Ultimately, it is an invaluable investment in your emotional, physical and mental health, an act of courage not weakness, and a gift to those whose lives you touch.
Do you have the perception that therapy must be for “crazy people?” Or do you see therapy as the author does…for people who are going through life transitions?