There, I’ve said it.
Going to therapy is hard work for sure. Allowing yourself to get emotionally naked and lay yourself bare in front of another person is a scary and hard thing to do. For me, therapy is part of the regular routine of my life and is a critical component of the care and maintenance plan I have established for myself. I cut and highlight my hair every 6 weeks, I try to get pedicures every month or so, I visit the doctor once a year for a physical and I go to therapy every week. I look at it as a gift I give myself week in and week out and it proves my commitment to myself. I have the good fortune of sitting with someone for 45 minutes (not long enough, by the way) to sort through the myriad issues, challenges, fears, successes, joys, and more that stumble into my life on a daily basis. It is an opportunity to continually look at myself from different angles and ensure that, while I continue to make missteps, I am learning from each success and failure and never give up on my goal to be better or live better.
To me, this is one of my favorite parts of my week. Sure, there are some weeks when I don’t know what I want to talk about or I feel particularly weighed down by my drama. Those are the weeks I have the best sessions. With the help of my very able therapist, I get to dig in, stir things up and, ultimately, have some significant breakthroughs that allow me to evolve and grow and, in my case, hopefully recover from some of the trauma of my past. It is truly sublime (and the hardest work I will ever do).
Am I perfect? NO. Far from it.
Am I cured? NO. It is a journey.
Will it ever end? I sure hope not.
Despite my positive experience with therapy, I do know that there are many, many, many people who feel there is a lot of stigma attached to going to therapy. Perhaps their family and friends suggest that their problems do not warrant counseling or it makes those around them feel insecure and threatened because if their loved one begins to reap the benefits of therapy, it could adversely impact their relationship. Society plays a big role in the stigma as well because, for many, the mere suggestion that someone seek counseling for the challenges that arise in their lives or the traumas they have endured assumes that they are crazy and that there is something wrong with them.
Before I wrote this blog post, I did a google search on the stigma of therapy and ended up with pages of links to articles, blogs, etc that highlighted the ideology that is attached to therapy and that frequently prevents people from comfortably seeking out help that they often desperately need – including this great piece. I try to be very open about my good fortune of seeing a therapist every week and share the endless benefits of my sessions. I am not a particularly private person (as one can tell from reading my blog!) and I believe in the power or stories to help others. While I recognize that it might not be the perfect opening line when meeting a prospective client for the first time, I do acknowledge that the ease with which I discuss my need to seek counseling and the impact it has on my life helps a few to feel more comfortable and open to the idea of therapy or not feel embarrassed by their own therapy sessions.
What concerns me most is that mental health is a topic that, even in 2011, we, as a society, are still very uncomfortable with. While we will quickly seek help if we learn that we have a medical illness and will fill our prescriptions and dutifully take our meds to watch our blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes, we are far more uncomfortable being diagnosed with depression or anxiety and taking the requisite medications to help treat these ailments. There is a lot of debate over whether or not these are legitimate illnesses if you cannot conclusively prove them to be and even more debate about the effects and impacts of the various drugs associated with these diseases. I know many people who are regularly taking medications to treat these illnesses and know an equal number of people who are simply horrified at the thought of the side effects of the drugs which might alter your personality, sex drive or cause weight gain. I often suggest that these folks look at suicide rates and consider how many of those people might have been saved had they been properly diagnosed or treated for their diseases. According to researchfrom the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide rates are rising each year and:
Every 14.6 minutes someone in the United States dies by suicide.
Nearly 1,000,000 people make a suicide attempt every year.
90% of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable and treatable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death.
I am not a preacher nor an advocate and will not get on my soapbox to argue the pros and cons. Rather, I am a satisfied customer who can tell story after story about how much therapy has changed my life and allowed me to live a more meaningful, intentional life.