Stigma around Therapy
When someone says ‘therapy’ you may immediately think of Sigmund Freud, or of someone lay on a long sofa with a therapist sat in a chair by their side. Most people nowadays have an understanding of what therapy is, and many of us have first-hand experiences. But despite accessing therapy being really common, there are still lots of misconceptions about it.
Some stigma comes from the idea that therapy is a ‘fad’ and that it’s ‘trendy’. Therapy has existed in many forms throughout history, and while it has become more popular in recent years, this is largely due to a wealth of awareness, development of new techniques, and growing positivity for supporting your mental health rather than it becoming ‘fashionable’ to take part in.
Did you know that one of the earliest known examples of medical-based psychotherapy was developed in the Middle East in the 9th century? Persian physician Rhazes is understood to be one of the earliest pioneers in the field. Since then, therapy has gone through many forms of evolution from phrenology (studying the shape of someone’s head) in the 18th century through to the beginning of psychotherapy that we know today. The origins of modern therapy come from the late 19th century, around the time that Freud was working on his ‘talking cure’ (which we now call psychotherapy) to help children with a learning disability. Over the past two hundred years, the study of the mind has grown, and with it has continued to develop psychological therapies. Nowadays, we have different therapies to help people with different things. Most commonly people will access Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or another type of person-centred therapy. For others they will access more specific forms of therapies if they are struggling with something such as trauma, like Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR). These different types of therapy that we know and understand today have helped thousands, if not millions, of people worldwide.
Another misconception about therapy is that therapists will judge you or think you’re ‘crazy’. ‘Crazy’ as a term itself stigmatises people who are mentally ill and draws on outdated stereotypes of mental illness. Aside from this; your therapist will not judge you. They are there to listen and guide you in recovery. Everyone is unique, and has their own ways of communicating, behaving, and interacting with others. There is no right or wrong way to speak to a therapist, and as long as you’re being honest and authentically yourself, they will be able to help you with whatever your troubles may be. Also, never worry about being emotional with your therapist. Feeling sad, or angry, or confused is you tapping into how you really feel about something, and expressing this to your therapist by crying, etc. is actually incredibly healthy and will likely make you feel better or less overwhelmed.
There is also some confusion about what a therapist is and what they do. There is a difference between different therapies and also between a psychiatrist, a psychologist, and a counsellor as each provide different forms of help and support:
- Psychiatrist: Someone who is a psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specialises in the study of the mind. They also help to diagnose people by checking to see if there are underlying medical problems that have had an effect on the mind. Psychiatrists also monitor the relationship between the mind and the body, and look at the physical effects of mental illness.
- Psychologist: Someone who is a psychologist has a degree in psychology and years of professional experience practising it. Psychologists provide psychotherapy (AKA talk therapy) and can help find the root causes of problems. They usually provide long-term treatment over a number of years and can help with more serious problems, such as diagnosed mental health related disorders or conditions such as Bipolar Disorder or Schizophrenia.
- Counsellor: A counsellor is someone who has a counselling or psychology qualification. Where psychologists provide more long-term less specific treatment, counsellors typically focus on specific issues in the short-term. They may help people try and problem solve or teach them techniques to better cope and deal with life’s struggles.
There are lots of different types of therapy offered nowadays which is dependent on who you are and what would help you best. The two more commonly known forms of therapy are:
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): This therapy is known to help people with: anxiety disorders, depression, Bipolar Disorder, eating disorders, Schizophrenia, and trauma-related disorders. In CBT, therapists work with people to look closely at negative or destructive thoughts and processes and help people to develop more positive and healthy ways of thinking about things.
- Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT): This therapy is similar to CBT but it has a closer focus on processing emotions, practicing mindfulness, and better understanding thoughts and feelings. In DBT, therapists teach people new techniques to help them understand and cope with situations in a healthier, more positive way. DBT was originally developed to help people with Borderline Personality Disorder (click here to read more about personality disorders) if they were struggling with suicidal thoughts.
There are also more creative forms of therapy, such as Drama Therapy and Arts Therapy. These help people to communicate their thoughts and feelings in a more creative way, such as through acting out scenarios, or painting their feelings. This helps people express themselves and communicate more difficult or complex feelings where words fail.
Feeling anxious about going to therapy or seeking it out is completely normal. If it’s your first time, you may worry beforehand about what actually happens in therapy and about meeting your therapist. Your first session is usually about them getting to know you better, and you getting to know them better too. It will allow you to see if you like them and connect with them and if you can see working with them going forwards. Trust is a huge part of therapy, and if you don’t get on with your therapist and would prefer to change, then that is definitely an option. Therapy is about helping you, and it requires a level of trust and comfort to be able to discuss your thoughts and feelings, so please don’t ever feel like you’re stuck with a therapist you don’t particularly like.
Therapy is an incredible form of support for so many people across the world. It helps people to process their thoughts and feelings and understand their root causes. It can help you approach situations more positively and with less fear by teaching you healthier behaviours and techniques. If you feel that you would benefit from therapy, then our employee assistance programme Health Assured offers eight free therapy sessions per issue per year. As an example, if you’re struggling with managing stress right now, then you can have eight sessions on handling stress, and then if you’re struggling with anxiety at later time, you can also have eight counselling sessions on managing anxiety.
You can read more about this here.