Gina Behm, MA, LCPC
Why We Need to Talk about Talking to Someone
A few weeks back I posted a poll on my personal Instagram account asking my followers to let me know if they had ever consistently seen a therapist for any reason at all. I defined consistently as more than twice, for longer than a month-long period of time. While I personally would define “consistently” as a little longer than that, I chose these timeframes for a few reasons. Usually after two sessions, clients are able to gauge if therapy is “for them”, and they either commit to continuing sessions or ending them. I chose longer than a month for the reason that I’m not quite convinced too much intentional change can occur to a person in one month; there is a process us humans go through in order to create positive change, and it is highly unlikely anyone completes this process without ample time and consideration. This process can be depicted briefly through the Stages of Change Model, but that is for another time!
Back to my Instagram poll…
I was not entirely sure how many responses I would receive through this poll considering the responses would not be fully anonymous. I promised not to follow-up with any questions or share personal information, and while I am a woman of my word, that still leaves the respondents vulnerable to me knowing their identities. Despite my concerns, I was pleasantly surprised with the turnout in responses, and even more excited about the final number of yeses vs. nos.
The final numbers came out to 54% of respondents HAVE attended consistent therapy vs. 46% who had not. Now, I am of course of the mindset that everyone and anyone can benefit greatly by engaging in consistent therapy. I firmly believe you do not need to have a traumatic past, experienced a recent death, be struggling with a chronic illness etc. to get the perks of therapy. However, despite this firm belief of mine, I can definitely say I am guilty of two things:
1. Assuming the majority of people I engage with do not and have not experienced consistent therapy, and
2. Being surprised at a lot of the people who did respond yes – I had thoughts like, “Really? Wow, why would they be in therapy I wonder? I had no idea they were struggling!”
I now (happily) know differently, and my eyes are open to a lot of people whom I wouldn’t have guessed had this amazing opportunity.
There is a huge stigma surrounding mental health treatment in particular. We all know and talk about the stigmas surrounding mental health itself, but not a lot of people talk about the stigma that keeps people from getting treatment. Even if those around you understand and accept what you are struggling with (which, lets face it, how often is that?), there is ALSO the idea that you should be able to manage your struggles on your own, with the help of family or religion or any other possible way than with a mental health professional (you know, someone who has been educated for years to learn the proper, appropriate and most helpful ways to engage with and support you…)
Seriously though, take a second and think about it… How many of you have ever seen one of those “______ is cheaper than therapy!” signs?? Honestly, way more often than I like to admit… Well, while sitting at the beach or going to happy hour with my girlfriends may boost my mood in the moment, it’s definitely not helping to create lasting change to my underlying issues…
This isn’t the only reason we should be talking about going to therapy though. I had a handful of people who responded “no” to my poll direct message me with statements like, “I’ve always been curious about it”, “I wish I could afford it”, and “I’ve never had the opportunity to go”. If we all took a minute to talk about how much going to therapy helps us out, as well as how normal it is to do so, I think those people who are curious would be more likely to try, and those who couldn’t afford it may prioritize finding ways to do so! Or even better, if we all started talking about going to therapy and the positive impact it has on us, then MAYBE we could get better mental health coverage and it would become more affordable and opportune for everyone!
All this to say, if you think you are the only person you know who is going to therapy, you’re not. Despite the societal, cultural, religious stigmas and expectations... I can almost guarantee you that you are not. So, if you are attending therapy, I encourage you to talk about it. No one is asking you to share what you are seeking help for; by all means, keep that to yourself. But if you are open and willing to start helping to reduce this large divide we all think there is between those who attend therapy and those who do not, I think you’d be pleasantly surprised to find that you are not alone in this tough journey. And who knows, maybe you can inspire someone new to try it out too!
Until next time my dears,