Breaking Down the Therapy Taboo

Breaking+Down+the+Therapy+Taboo

Marianna Román, Editor-in-Chief

I went to therapy for the first time a few years ago. I thought it would be a waste of time and that I’d be sharing who I am with someone who would judge me. What could I possibly gain? Nothing, I thought. However, I couldn’t be more wrong. To this day, therapy has wholly changed how I handle problems and my perspective on life. Our society has normalized making fun of dialogues surrounding emotion, and often, vulnerability is considered a weakness. The stigma and the fear of being shamed have caused many to avoid seeking help from a mental health professional. But in reality, therapy is so much more than sitting on a couch. It is a helpful tool for a range of issues, like self-esteem, adaptation, relationships, sleep, etc. The long-established taboo surrounding therapy should cease to exist, and it must begin to be considered a healthy life decision.

Because of the negative stigma around therapy, people prefer to avoid it. However, mental health needs to be treated with the importance it deserves. The National Alliance on Mental Health stated that one out of every five American adults lives with a mental health condition. However, only 40% of those get help. Untreated mental issues may get worse and negatively impact physical wellness. For those with a mental illness, professional guidance can help them understand and work through their condition. A study in 2017 showed that 1 in 10 people have a mental illness, whether it be depression, anxiety, bipolar or eating disorder or schizophrenia. Mental health disorders remain significantly under-reported, probably due to the lack of attention given. This study and several others show how common it is to have a condition, therefore proving that receiving help, such as therapy, should not be a reason to shame others. If only 40% of people with a condition receive treatment, how do the other 60% treat their illness? Not understanding emotions, healthy coping techniques, and problem-solving skills can be dangerous, as untreated mental illnesses can deteriorate physical health. Also, 23% of mass murderers are said to be mentally ill. Not to mention that 90% of suicides can be ascribed to untreated illnesses. Many individuals who need treatment would rather suffer in silence than seeking professional help. More damage is done when not treating it than when working with a therapist, which is why the taboo needs to be tackled. 

Therapy is also recommended even for those who do not have a mental illness because it is safe for dialogue and vulnerability. Psychologists are professionals trained to understand the emotions and patterns the patient shows. Their job is to listen and help with any type of struggle so that you can become the best version of yourself. Their experience is valuable because they have so much knowledge about emotion and behavior that they will provide the most straightforward guidance, “A therapist will never be biased. They only have your best interest in mind. I think it becomes hard for family members or friends not to have a bias because they are a part of your life,” Luisa Munera, active therapy patient, said. As Munera noted, the lack of bias is an essential factor because therapists will not provide misleading advice. However, therapy is challenging. Opening up to someone you barely know about trauma or harmful experiences can be daunting, and therapy is not a quick fix.  Contrary to popular belief, you will not come out of your first appointment as a new person; it takes time. But if you are willing and patient, it is an enriching experience. It can help you learn about what you are feeling, why, and how to cope with it. Therapy is a judgment-free space to share anything with a prepared professional, which is why everyone should try it as it encourages personal development. 

Therapy offers you time to improve your relationship with yourself and with others.  By improving who you are, your self-esteem, and healing from past experiences, your relationships with others improve as you develop more confidence and trust in who you are. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, an idea in psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow regarding human motivation, presents the concept of self-actualization, stating that “human motivation is based on people seeking fulfillment and change through personal growth.” Self-actualized people have an acceptance of who they are despite their faults, and doing so can lead to the full development of one’s abilities. Therapy could help you achieve this. While you learn more about who you are, therapy enables you to achieve your goals and even find out what these are, empowers you to take action on your own, and can help you address what is holding you back from living the life you envision, “When you feel like you are working and improving things about yourself, it just makes you feel better about the choices you make,” Munera said. Think about it like going to the gym. Many are disciplined and wake up early, have strict diets, and although they might be too tired or busy, they find the time and push through the difficulties. If you were to take as much care of your mental health by going to therapy, it would significantly benefit your persona. 

From personal experience, I understand how scary it can be to ask for help. Having a mental illness and receiving treatment or simply recognizing there are things you could improve about yourself does not show weakness- it shows will and strength. In the past years, the discussion surrounding mental health has become a lot better. Still, more work needs to be done for most people to react positively to therapy and to abolish the taboo surrounding mental health once and for all.