Most people assume if you go to therapy you are either crazy or your marriage is in trouble. I am here to say – That. Is. Not. True.
Healthcare professionals, including mental health professionals, stigmatize and discriminate against people with mental illness. Studies by National Alliance on Mental Illness revealed that 16% to 44% experienced discrimination from mental health services, and 17% to 31% from physical health care services (NAMI, 2017).
If our healthcare and mental health providers are stigmatizing and discriminating, how much more is the general population doing the same? If we think only those with mental illness (or the broken, weak, and crazy) go to therapy, why would we go?
As a whole, our society is incredibly misinformed about mental health which leads to misunderstandings, false judgments and ideas – especially relating to therapy.
Therapy is more than a quick-fix to a troublesome relationship. It is more than a prescription to the emotionally unsteady, or those hearing voices. It has the potential to not only diminish, or lessen, overwhelming issues, but also the power to be life-changing. It provides a new and different outlook on life; more importantly, a new and healthier view of self.
I have been “seeing a therapist” quite consistently for five years. Initially, I went to therapy for more stereotypical reasons: I started going when my first marriage was falling apart; then, it was because I had an eating disorder that ransacked my life; then, I was depressed. And so on, and so on. Now, I go because I love my therapist and, well, it’s free……
Just kidding. Although I do admire my therapist, and I have fantastic health insurance, I don’t go for those sole reasons. Now, I go to therapy because I value my relationship with my therapist as it enables me to maintain optimum mental health.
According to the CDC, Mental Health, by definition, is “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and can contribute to his or her community.” Mental health encompasses emotional, psychological and social well-being.
How do we know we are coping well or being productive members of society without consulting experts within the field? Instead of viewing mental health in a negative light, it should be viewed as a parallel to physical health.
To maintain physical health, we schedule and attend yearly, routine doctor visits, as they are the experts on our hearts, vision, hearing, etc. They tell us how we are physically performing and consequently prescribe any necessary treatment. Mental health should be no different. It is just as important as our physical health.
The act of pursuing optimum mental health doesn’t assume that you have a stereotypical mental illness, or a chronic problem (although you may). It simply means that you are trying to be the best version of yourself.
“In therapy I have learned the importance of keeping spiritual life and professional life balanced. I need to regain my balance.” – Tiger Woods
Mental illness, or poor mental health, doesn’t have to be extreme, or scream ‘I need help’. It can be very simplistic, and isolated, such as struggling with: body image, maintaining a functional relationship, misplaced aggression, quitting a job in the heat of the moment, snapping at your spouse or child, etc. You could be dealing with anger from the past and not even realize it has an impact on your current life or relationships. All of these are very normal and could be a good reason to go to therapy.
Therapy can be a prescription to mental illness, but it should also be a preventative health care measure. Some people don’t need a billable therapist because they have an incredibly great support system, which is great. Others though, simply underestimate the value of therapy.
“In Hollywood if you don’t have a shrink, people think you’re crazy.” – Johnny Carson
To me, the amount of knowledge that I possess today, five years deep into therapy, is immeasurable and invaluable. Each time I leave my one-hour therapy session, I gain more knowledge and insight of myself.
Therapy has given me a fresh, new set of eyes. Eyes that see the truth, instead of the lies I believed about myself; eyes that see hope, instead of darkness; eyes that see safety, instead of a doomed outcome.
The more I learn about myself, and how I engage with the world, the more I desire to know. Through therapy, I have learned who I am, and who I want to be. I have learned how every detail of my childhood, and other life experiences – good and bad – affects me. I have learned self-awareness and self-worth. I have learned that feelings don’t always equate to actions or reactions. I have learned how to remain steady in the calm of a storm.
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Even now in my marriage, we still have fights that hurt more than the typical disagreement. There are still moments that I find myself reverting back to my old self, who lashes out, is cold and graceless. Therapy has helped me overcome these wounds, and hiccups a lot easier. It has helped me evolve into a more productive, and fruitful member of not only my family but my community.
There are many different types of therapy, which I won’t delve into in this article. The important takeaway is that therapy, the act of unapologetically, and shamelessly exposing your deepest parts to someone is a precious relationship to have. No matter what stage of life you are in, or what you are currently going through.
There is a saying in running, “if you want to run faster, run with someone faster than you.” Therapy is the same.
Therapists are trained – some, like mine, very well – to help patients better understand themselves, their emotional reactions to relationships, and life, so that they can make healthy choices. Just like running faster, if you want to be better at exploring and understanding yourself, let a therapist lead you. Let them do their job. It is not just for the broken, weak, or crazy.
I always strive to be a better version of myself. There may be a time when I don’t need to go to therapy, but I will always remain open to the idea. And I will always find people who will make me run faster.
NAMI (2017). NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness. Retrieved from