Therapy can be a loaded word. Misunderstandings about mental health mean this treatment, which has helped millions of people, is sometimes judged and stigmatized — and that can stand in the way of healing.
Seeing a mental health professional is no different than seeing a specialist for any other illness. Research shows therapy is one of the best ways to treat mental health disorders. Period. And for those without a mental illness, it’s a great way to simply work through pressing life issues that may be causing some stress.
Therapists can give a person the tools they need to successfully manage their condition. It’s perfectly reasonable to go to a clinician for a physical illness. Shouldn’t the same expectation apply to a clinician for a mental illness?
The point, after all, is to be healthy. That includes taking care of the mind in therapy. In an effort to demystify the process, HuffPost rounded up 10 things everyone should know about therapy.
1. You should never feel ashamed for being in therapy.
Everyone experiences bouts of stress or sadness. But when these feelings become too overwhelming, therapy can help a person take back control. There is absolutely no shame in seeking help.
“Talking about your issues and problems out loud can be very helpful. It gives some perspective,” Gregory Dalack, chair of the department of psychiatry at the University of Michigan, previously told HuffPost.
“Talking with somebody who is trained to understand anxiety and depression can be even more helpful to help manage those symptoms, reframe some of the negative thoughts we tend to have and move us to a place [mentally] where we can cope with those difficulties,” he explained.
Even the people who seemingly “have it all together” sometimes need a little assistance. Public figures from Kerry Washington and Howie Mandel to Kate Middleton and Demi Lovato have all praised the benefits of going to therapy.
2. There’s stilla huge stigma attached to it.
Not only is there sometimes a negative perception when it comes to therapy, the stereotype prevents people from even trying it in the first place. Research shows many people with depression don’t actively seek treatment to help manage their condition.
Let’s reiterate the first point: There’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help.
3. When it comes to treatment, everybody’s different.
There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to treating matters of the mind. There are multiple methods of therapy, from cognitive behavioral therapy to group therapy. What works best for one person may be entirely different for someone else.
4. There is no “right” amount of time to be in therapy.
The length of time in therapy depends on circumstances like a person’s level of stress, life events or mental illness diagnosis.
“While some forms of therapy are open-ended, others can be more focused on helping you manage the issues at hand over a relatively short period of time,” Dalack said.
5. No, you don’t have to lay on a couch.
Many people have a preconceived idea about what a session is like based purely on pop culture, and that usually includes the idea that you absolutely must lay on a couch as a gray-haired man with glasses writes down your deepest secrets on a clipboard. More often than not, the portrayal is far from the truth.
6. It sometimes takes a while to find the right therapist.
It doesn’t mean anything if a person has seen multiple mental health professionals. To employ a cliché, therapy is a lot like dating — it isn’t necessarily a good match on the first try. The point is that a person is getting the help they need.
7. Not everyone in therapy has a mental health disorder.
Therapy can help people sort through any distressing issue, from work-related stress and family conflict to marriage troubles and academic pressures. There is no wrong reason for seeking a little support.
8. Your therapist definitely doesn’t gossip.
At least not in the way you may think they do. Therapy is all about someone’s personal development. That may include discussions about people who have shaped their current reality, but it’s not a water-cooler gossip session by any stretch of the imagination.
9. Being in therapy doesn’t necessarily lead to medication, but if it does, that’s totally okay.
Not all people in therapy are on medication; not all people in therapy can manage their condition just by seeing a professional.
Like most medical treatments, the method depends on the symptoms and the circumstances. A therapist will work with a person in order to develop the right plan, which may or may not include medication.