Therapy is for people who…
The second reason we don't go to therapy, no one want's to be described as the person who needs therapy. Let’s explore how some people might finish the sentence "Therapy is for people who..." Which of the following descriptions do you relate to?
"Therapy is for people who can’t hack it on their own."
They use words like; weak or crazy and then they may or may not claim to be kidding. First to make fun of therapy either overtly or covertly. Feeds the fears and builds the negative perception with jokes and criticism.
The Quiet Bystander
"Therapy is for people who need some kind of help?"
Their comments feel more like questions because emotional care is mysterious and maybe scary. Constitutes those in the crowd who feel uncomfortable with the topic; they avoid discussions around mental health. They allow uncertainty to quell their voice, so they say very little for or against. Content remaining uninformed and without a solid opinion.
The Inconsistent Supporter
"Therapy is for everyone, except me."
Full on supporter for the people who really need “that kind of help”. Describes the type of person who engages in therapy with adjectives that exclude themselves. Outwardly supportive, but inwardly carries unspoken judgement or misinformation that makes it fine for others, but it isn’t for them.
The Hesitant Participant
"Therapy is for people who need some outside perspective and help, but no one better find out that I go to a therapist!"
Bravely engages outside help, may or may not work hard in therapy, but they do not want others to know they go to therapy.* (see important note below)
"Therapy is for people who recognize that life is full of ups and downs and it's ok to engage outside support."
The person who positively encourages and defends mental health care. They are willing to talk about emotional health, and they prioritize it for themselves.
We need advocates, so how do we recruit and create more of them? I will be a broken record throughout this blog series… Start a conversation. Talk to other advocates and be curious. How do we change any kind of preconceived impression about therapy and mental health care? Inform and equip yourself. Feeding the larger story is easy, but confronting ignorance takes courage.
So who are the real people who engage in therapy?
If I were to describe the people I have worked with in therapy, they don’t fit any stereotypical characterization; there is no "type". Of course I work with people who are skeptical, some choose not to engage, and some people just are not ready to put forth the effort. The majority of my clients are willing to work hard despite the apprehension of stepping into unknown or uncharted territory. They are courageous and willing to be introspective. I have the privilege of sitting with clients who boldly face some incredibly painful circumstances and show remarkable resilience.
I have nothing but the most profound respect for anyone who is willing to confront a challenge and create something different for themselves and their relationships. Therapy is for people who want to grow and learn and break patterns of unhelpful behaviors, and they are willing to do the work to make it happen.
*When it comes to participation in therapy, confidentiality in the process is a critical component. As a therapist I am bound by strict regulations to preserve client’s privacy and confidentiality. There are MANY factors to consider about confidentiality outside the scope of this article, so this is NOT to advocate any disclosure about participation in personal therapy. We can be full advocates of mental health care without sharing anything about our personal experience in therapy if we so choose. Examination of the rationale behind whatever choice we make is something that each individual must clarify for themselves, responsibly, and safely.
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