As a Psychologist I am often subjected to a variety of jokes or comments regarding my field of work when others discover what I do for a living. There is misguided humor about “those crazy people”, awkward moments when someone tells me they once saw a “shrink”, but “it didn’t work”, or remarks about how difficult it must be to listen to sad stories all day. In response to these stigmas, here I present some clarification.
First, those “crazy people” are not in fact crazy, just regular folks like you and I who have experienced emotional distress and challenging hardships in their lives. Second, trying therapy one time with only one therapist is like going on a test drive, not liking how the car feels, and vowing to never buy a car again. Lastly, witnessing clients gain necessary insights to overcome behavioral or emotional setbacks, resulting in healthier and happier lives, always trumps the perceived difficulty of listening to the experiences of emotional pain.
Reducing the numerous stigmas of mental health services is necessary in order to help individuals receive the benefits of therapy. Psychotherapy, provided by licensed mental health professionals, offers everyday people the opportunity to identify and process the thoughts and feelings associated with life stressors and difficult circumstances. A competent and professional therapist helps clients feel safe in a confidential setting, validated through empathetic support, and empowered through non-judgmental feedback and insights they provide.
Benefits of therapy can be experienced in a variety of ways. A person with specific or generalized anxiety learns to identify their triggers, change their irrational fears and worrying thoughts, and practice effective relaxation techniques to cope with everyday stressors. Those with depression gain motivation and interest to go to work, improve social interactions, and accomplish personal goals. This is achieved through realizing one’s self-worth, and decreasing insecurities and self-doubts by interrupting negative thinking habits. Additionally, such individuals gain confidence, become more assertive, and experience improved mood. For those who struggle with interpersonal or marital relationships, more meaningful connections can be developed through setting healthy boundaries, learning to compromise, improve listening and communication skills, and increased perspective-taking. For those living with a medical diagnosis, there is an opportunity to obtain necessary support in a time of great uncertainty. These individuals can achieve the ability to better manage negative feelings and physical pain, while learning healthy and proactive coping behaviors.
Many of us experience situations in life that lead to troubling emotions or behaviors. Mental health services provide the opportunity to work through these difficulties in order to reach the happy, healthy lives we wish to live. However, if we give in to the negative portrayal or stigma of mental health services, we deprive ourselves this great opportunity. In other words, let’s talk about it.