Let’s Get Rid of Therapy Stigma! – Dr. Devin Chetty
Crown The Brown : The stigmas around going to therapy. Almost everyday, I hear comments about therapy or of those attending therapy. It often reminds me of my own therapeutic experience. The influx of comments made me realize that therapy has not yet fully been normalized or accepted.
In an attempt to change this, let’s shed some light on the truth about seeing a therapist and raise more awareness, I would also like to highlight some of the common misconceptions about it. As well as share my own experience of going to therapy and how it changed my life.
On a daily basis, I engage with people who are open enough to share their experiences with me. Being someone with a history as well, it’s easy to pick up on signs and symptoms when someone is dealing with/holding onto a lot of baggage and emotions. Similarly, internalized baggage and emotions! The MOMENT I suggest seeing a therapist, certain comments or arguments are made against it.
A few examples of arguments made:
- But why? I’m not crazy! Are you telling me that I’m crazy?
- Therapy is only for people who are depressed!
- I don’t need someone else to tell me how messed up I am, how can they help me when I can’t help myself?
- What’s the difference between speaking to a therapist and speaking to a friend?
- I don’t need therapy, I’ve handled my shit for this long, I can keep going on my own.
- I’d rather just keep all my problems to myself.
So, being a Dentist, I would like to ask you is this;
What do you do when you have toothache? Chances are, you’re going to try and see a Dentist ASAP right?! When you have the flu, or an illness, you seek medical attention right? The doctor gets called and no, googling symptoms and cures do not count!
Hence, when you have pain in your heart, or an overcrowded brain, you confide in seeing a therapist. As easy as that.
Above all, being a sufferer of both depression and anxiety, I can tell you, that making the decision to see a therapist LITERALLY saved my life! However, you do not have to suffer from depression to see a therapist. Psychology and Psychiatry exists for a REASON! Use the resources that are accessible, trust me it is worth it!
Unfortunately, even though therapy is accessible, people refuse to use it. Many believe that therapy is a waste of precious time and money. Therapy has been regarded as a liability rather than a necessity! Why? Well, because of the stigma’s around therapy. It is time to break down those barriers and get rid of those stigmas! Lets delve into some of the most common stigma’s around attending therapy.
Stigma’s Surrounding Therapy/Counseling
1. “Taking your problems to someone else makes you a weak person”
Many People believe that speaking to someone about your problems instead of working on it yourself makes you a weak person.
In fact, going for therapy is an immensely strong and courageous thing to do. Yes it’s wonderful to offload all your baggage onto someone who’s job it is to listen to your bitching and moaning. But it is ALSO just as strong of you to take the first step, set up that appointment, and admit to yourself that you may need help. Whether that’s help with a situation at work, a toxic relationship, or even just to make a difficult decision. Speaking to a therapist requires strength – strength to explore your own emotional and mental limits and boundaries, strength to be guided in directions you wouldn’t go and strength to learn and actively seek a better place.
2. “Only crazy people go to therapy”
Whether you are suffering from a mental illness or just seeking help for overwhelming feelings/thoughts, “crazy” is never the correct analogy to use and only increases the stigma that causes some people to never seek the help and peace they so very much deserve and/or need.
3. “You only need therapy when you’re in a bad space”
As mentioned before, you do not have to have to be in a bad place, or suffering from a mental illness to benefit from therapy. I know people who are successful, have solid relationships with their partners and friends, and have great hobbies on the side. Yet, they still see their therapist at least once every 2 weeks. You, as a human being are growing each and every day. The human brain is the most complicated computer in the world and we need to continuously learn more about ourselves in order for this growth to happen in a positive way!
4. “People will think that something is wrong with you”
People love to judge and point fingers when you’re doing something different. Many assume that something has to be extremely wrong with you to seek help from a therapist rather than confiding in a family member or friend. People are scared of being judged, but its 2019 peeps, feminism is rising and stereotyping, mental health and gender/racial/social discrimination are getting the awareness required. We, as a community of HUMANS, can create the awareness around mental health, and get rid of these ridiculous assumptions!
5. ” I feel so sorry for you”
People will begin to show sympathy and become scared of you because of therapy. Similarly, the stigma brings judgement in many ways. You can expect people’s behaviours to change because of the difference you are making in your own life! Those who judge, are those who cannot help themselves in the same manner. Remember that you are in control of changing your story and embracing a new sense of healing. People who do not understand your story will fill your head with criticism, but you are your biggest critic.
6. “You have to be so depressed to be seeing a therapist”
Seeing a therapist is so invigorating, enlightening, and motivating. Some therapists will tell you that most of their patients aren’t even suffering from any mental illnesses. However we are all human beings, with a complicated brain, as well as a heart which comes with things we call EMOTIONS, which I also wish we could just switch off with the switch of a button. Sometimes we are clouded with so many thoughts, that we just need some guidance in the right direction. Therapy will help you find the best way forward for YOU, not your friends or family or colleagues.
“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy. I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it”
– Art Williams
Furthermore, seeing a therapist for whatever reason it may be, will change your life in a positive manner. Whether you just need advice on a certain, perhaps complicated situation that you’re dealing with, or you’re unhappy at work or in a toxic relationship and can’t get out because you don’t know how. Even when your thoughts just feel overwhelming, and you’re mentally exhausted, or you’re struggling to come to terms with/letting go of something or someone, or you find yourself just feeling overly sad about a situation you may be/may have gone through in the past, make that appointment. Turn to therapy!
Think of it this way, if you walk in, and walk out feeling the exact same way, you’ve lost absolutely nothing. However, I can guarantee you that you will leave the room feeling better than when you first walked in. Many times, you’ll find that the more therapy you attend, the better understanding you’ll have of yourself and others. People can always give you advice until they’re blue in the face, but only you will know when the time is right and making that first step for yourself is incredibly empowering.
So as Nike say: JUST DO IT!
“Courage doesn’t happen when you have all the answers. It happens when you are ready to face the questions you have been avoiding your whole life.”
― Shannon L. Alder
Article by Dr. Devin Chetty