Updated: May 12, 2022
“I need therapy.”
“I’m in therapy.”
“I have a mental health diagnosis.”
These are terrifying statements for many people. They carry a weight that is different from other health services. Talking about mental health with your family or friends can be scary. Many people choose to try and hide their problems from those that care about them the most. We don’t hide when we go to the dentist or when we feel sick and decide to go to the doctor. We don’t even feel the need to hide certain medical conditions like diabetes or getting the flu. Why then is it so scary to tell someone you are in therapy? The biggest answer is stigma.
There has been a stigma around mental health for many years. It has improved over time; however, we still feel that treating our mental health is not as important as treating our physical health. The funny thing is that they are related to one another. The more mentally healthy you are, the better your physical health is likely to be. On top of that, poor mental health can lead to physical symptoms that may not be treatable in other ways. So, the question remains how do we do it? How do we talk about mental health, and what are some common barriers to seeking treatment?
Some common barriers…
Many people think that their symptoms are not severe enough to go to therapy. They think, “sure, I am anxious, but so is everyone else,” and move on with their day. People are surprised many times when they go to therapy and find out that people do not have to live like that every day. If you notice you are struggling with something, whether it is anxiety, depression, struggles at work or school, or even issues in your relationship, finding someone to talk to is usually a good idea.
Another common barrier is money. Many people use insurance for everyday things like going to the doctor or the dentist, but things can feel unnecessarily difficult with mental health. There are places that will work with insurance to help people get the care they need. Some sites do not use insurance but work on a sliding scale to help people who are struggling financially. There are also likely low- to no-cost clinics in your area where you may be able to get treatment. Money should not be the biggest barrier when someone really needs help.
Time… and this is a big one. Making time for therapy means an extra hour after work or spending most of your lunch break in therapy. Maybe you have to take an hour on your day off to attend therapy. The idea here is yes, therapy takes time, but this is time you are making for yourself. Many people find therapy to be a place where they gain understanding and take care of themselves. Making time for therapy is making time to take care of your needs. Therapy is not forever and making time for it now may mean enjoying your time in the future even more.
Now, once I have decided to go to therapy, then how do I talk about it?
This is an excellent question! There are many reasons people might feel nervous to talk to their families or friends about their mental health. Let’s talk through some of them:
“I don’t know how they will react.”
This is potentially the hardest thing to get through. The unknown is scary for many people. You may feel like you are letting them down or making them uncomfortable, but try to think of a time when your friends and family helped you through something. They are there to support you, and that means in good times and in bad. Talking to them may help you gain support throughout the process. You are really choosing to help yourself by sharing with the people you trust who make you feel safe. Remember to choose people who you feel truly want what is best for you and who you feel would be supportive!
“They are part of the reason I am struggling.”
This is an extremely valid concern. Talking about attending therapy, you may be worried they will ask too many questions and find out that they are the problem. The wonderful thing about therapy is nobody, but your clinician and you have to know what is talked about in the therapy room. Telling your friends and family you are attending therapy does not mean you have to tell them everything you tell your therapist. You can be as vague or as specific as you would like. Do not let the fear that they will find out you are talking about them be the reason you don’t seek help!
“They won’t look at me the same.”
This is a fear most people have with many of the changes they make in their lives. Choosing to better your mental health should not be something that comes with so much judgment. Unfortunately, the world we live in has not yet fully accepted that asking for help is okay. This is the hardest to respond to because we know that it does happen. In this case, if someone is judging you for seeking help, you may want to consider how much of a positive impact they may be having on your life and make decisions based on what you feel is best for you. Would you judge others if you found out they were seeking help? Remember, the whole point of therapy is to choose to put yourself and your needs first. Others may not understand why you feel that you need help. Do not let this keep you from choosing to help yourself and maybe through your experience they will begin to see that asking for help is okay.
Now that we are through the main barriers, what do you think? Is therapy so scary? It is okay to ask for help. Many people throughout the world attend therapy every day. When we feel something is wrong physically, we go to the doctor, so why do we not seek professional help when we see something is wrong mentally or emotionally? As the world begins to normalize this idea more, as a clinician, I hope things will get easier. Until that time, remember that talking to someone is normal even if you feel you need better advice than your best friend may be able to give. There will also always feel like reasons you shouldn’t but remember that you and your happiness are the reason you should. I hope this was helpful to talk through some of what may be holding you back and that you find someone you can talk to very soon!