If I asked you to stop and make a list of the top problems in your life right now, what would they be?
Would any of these problems make your list?
- Feeling overwhelmed and unable to manage everything all at once?
- Feeling sad or blah most days?
- Spending too much time worrying about the future?
- Feeling frustrated with your job? Or stuck in a job or career that feels unfulfilling?
- Feeling like you have no idea how to help your child anymore?
- Feeling like you barely recognize your girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse anymore?
- Feeling like you just can’t seem to get it together to get where you want to go – if you could only figure out where that is?
And, if I asked you to make a list of the top reasons why you haven’t consulted with a therapist about the problems in your life, what would be on that list? Perhaps it may look something like this:
- My problems aren’t bad enough to need therapy. Only people with major problems need therapy.
- I just need to figure some stuff out on my own – no sense going to a therapist for that.
- I don’t have time to be in therapy between work and home commitments.
- It’s so expensive.
- Therapy might work for other people, but I really don’t think it would work for me.
- I tried therapy once, but it just didn’t change anything.
- I’ll just get a prescription for something to help instead.
Anything sound familiar yet?
May is Mental Health Awareness Month here in the United States. As part of this month, the American Psychological Association and other organizations dedicated to improving mental health outcomes across the country are encouraging individuals to speak out in support of better mental health and against the stigma of psychotherapy.
When I talk to folks about the reasons why they aren’t quite ready to attack their toughest problems in therapy, the responses I hear are often laced with stigma, fear, and shame. Therapy may be seen as something that only the “weak” or the “crazy” people among us need. Or people may worry that others will think negatively of them if they are discovered to be in therapy.
In reality, while therapy is for those with a “diagnosable” condition…it’s also for everyone else, too. I see therapy as a place to come and figure out the source of your struggles and to find ways to push past those barriers to achieving your dreams in life.
While our society has made huge strides toward normalizing mental health issues and reducing stigma, there is still a long way to go. We must continue working to break down the fear and shame that create the barriers to getting help. Brene Brown, a researcher known for her work on shame, writes the following in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are:
Shame hates it when we reach out and tell our story. It hates having words wrapped around it – it can’t survive being shared. Shame loves secrecy. The most dangerous thing to do after a shaming experience is hide or bury our story.
So, I’m blogging for mental health today to encourage everyone to fight the stigma and reach out for the help you need. Talking about your issues and about the help you receive can be a wonderful way to fight that fear and shame around mental illness and therapy.
If you are already seeing a therapist, that’s wonderful! Consider sharing your experiences on the site, I Have a Therapist. Speaking out not only helps reduce the shame and stigma around your own therapy but also can benefit others who are unsure about seeking help.
If you aren’t in therapy but think that you could benefit, consider picking up the phone or sending an email to me or to a qualified therapist in your area. Read some of the stories on the I Have a Therapist website. Talk to a professional about what is going on and hear how they might be able to help someone in your unique situation.
Therapy can be a powerful agent for change – think about making use of this amazing tool!