Let's make therapy cool, and stop feeding the stigmas that come with seeing a therapist.
Updated: Jan 21
Allow me to debunk the biggest myth running through your head right now, even after you read the title of this blog. Ready for it?
YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE IN CRISIS OR "ACTIVELY DEPRESSED" TO SEE A THERAPIST. In fact, you don't have to have a diagnosed mental health condition whatsoever to see a therapist.
Now that we got that out of the way, can we focus on making therapy cool, please? Can we break the stigma around the fact that we perceive people who go to therapy as "broken" or "traumatized". Now if you HAVE been broken, traumatized, or have a family history of mental illness, then absolutely therapy is for you. But going to a therapist doesn't mean you are weak or unable to "handle life on your own". It's stereotypes like this that only feeds the stigma around mental health in general.
Let's also stop assuming that the only reason you need to go to a therapist is when you're having a rough time. Not true. Sometimes it's good for a checkup, or just to reaffirm that you have your life in balance. You can go to the therapist if you are having a GOOD day.
I'm a pretty outspoken mental health advocate, and up until about 6-8 months ago, I finally buckled down and got a therapist of my own. I decided to start practicing what I preach. I can't sit here and talk to someone struggling with their mental health, and insist they see a therapist if I myself haven't even tried it...so I DID.
Many people - a majority of which are men- think they have a handle on their feelings. They think they can handle everything on their own, and they don't need to "sit on someone's couch to discuss my emotions." They think doing this is admitting defeat and therefore a sign of weakness. This just simply isn't true. I've said this time and time again, but maybe it's time to say it in CAPS LOCK with a megaphone:
THERE IS A GREAT DEAL OF STRENGTH IN ASKING FOR HELP.
You aren't surrendering to anything by going to see a therapist. Sometimes seeking out an independent third party to help is an incredible breath of fresh air. An unbiased opinion from someone who isn't influenced by your personal bias, and they will be more honest with you than most friends.
Think of it like this. I was a world class French Horn player in high school, and if I wanted to - I could have played for the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, first chair...according to my mother. I was an OKAY French Horn player, but was I worthy of international accolades? Probably not...but my mother has a slanted opinion of my abilities, right? Same goes for your life and life situations. You have your own preconceived notions of your surroundings, and your friends hear the story you tell them...what if you had that outside perspective who can look at your life, and be able to tell you - honestly - maybe YOU could be doing something to change your life situation. Maybe it's not everyone else. Or, maybe it IS everyone else! Wouldn't it be nice to know that you aren't losing your mind?
A therapist has probably heard your story, or a similar story before - so you aren't alone...and your therapist has seen this movie before. They come from a place of experience and can give you a perspective on life that you may have never known or thought about. It can be truly eye opening.
NOW here's a tip - if you are just going to therapy to vent and complain about life, therapy isn't going to work for you. Your therapist isn't your friend, and unless you are open and honest with them - letting them know about your life situation, skeletons and all, you might as well just keep spinning your tires. Therapy won't work if you aren't honest, and don't worry - your therapist will never judge you. As I mentioned earlier, they've most likely heard your story or something similar before. You are not alone.
I'm not saying you need to start going to therapy once a week starting tomorrow. All I'm saying is to give it a try, especially if you have insurance that is cool with covering mental health. Give it a session or two. Feel it out. Find a therapist that YOU are comfortable with, and someone you get a good vibe from...if you don't like them, you don't have to stick with them- you can find a different therapist...you have options.
If you are someone who truly NEEDS a therapist and are holding back because of the insurance thing, or financial constraints - there are programs out there that will provide to you at little to no cost. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for example, there is the "Access Clinic" that provides free mental healthcare. Now, you need to go consistently for that to happen, and you have to meet a few requirements, but it is an option. A little internet researching will probably find the same type of service in your area too.
At the end of the day, if you still DON'T want to see a therapist, or if it just isn't for you - that's cool...you tried! But please do the rest of us a favor, and don't judge those that DO visit a therapist. It doesn't make us any weaker, or any less valued, or "unable to manage our own feelings"...we see a therapist for the same reason that the most elite athletes in the world have trainers and conditioners, because we want to be better people.
If you DO see a therapist? Why not throw up a #TherapySelfie on your social media? Everyone does a selfie pic for the gym, for work, for vacations, but why not for self care? Talk about it casually with your friends. Make it part of your normal conversation. The more we NORMALIZE therapy, the easier it is to make therapy cool. Don't be ashamed of seeking out therapy, remember there's a great deal of strength in asking for help!
Check back next week for another MENtalHealthMonday podcast featuring my good friend Jason Prinzo - his story on how he battles severe anxiety. He's got an awesome story and I can't wait for you to hear it next Monday.
COMING IN February - Farmers have Feelings. Yes, farmers have feelings too, and unfortunately the isolation and stress on the farming industry has led to a frighteningly high suicide rate. I've found some farmers in the Wisconsin area - and they all have a story to tell, we keep putting the MEN in MentalHealth!
Thanks for reading, as usual! Remember...make good life decisions.