Many Americans are sick. Not just in our bodies (although statistics on American nutrition are not pretty), but in our minds too. Americans suffer from anxiety and depression in startling numbers, and experts say that anxiety is only growing.
Yet many of us do not seek help for our mental health in the same way that we would for physical ailments. Why is that, and what can we do to change this reality? The answers lie in misconceptions and limitations in many Americans’ understanding of mental healthcare.
Dangerous stigma and misconceptions
A major reason that Americans don’t seek out the mental healthcare they need is because many of us view therapy with suspicion or derision. Some of us think that people who go to therapy are weak or “crazy”, and that we are not that way, or at least we refuse to admit that we are.
This is an inaccurate view of therapy, and a dangerous one too. The stigma that surrounds mental health care is hurting us, and we need to dispel the myths about therapy.
Therapy is for everyone
There are countless misconceptions about therapy and mental healthcare, and we certainly do not have the space to list them all here. But one of the biggest ones is this: that therapy is only for people with very serious mental health issues.
That’s simply not the case. Putting aside the fact that many people with serious mental health issues may not even realize they have them (and therefore, that they could benefit from therapy), it’s simply not true that well-adjusted folks can’t also benefit from therapy.
Mental health is not binary. You’re not “crazy” or “not crazy” (and it’s offensive to even use such terminology). Each us us deals with anxieties, fears, sadness, frustrations, and all kinds of experiences, moods, and emotions. And each of us can benefit from the strategies and proactive mental healthcare that therapy can provide.
There is more than one type of therapy
Talk therapy is one of the most powerful forms of mental healthcare around. But it’s not well understood. Most of us are familiar with the classic stereotype of a client lying on a couch talking to a therapist. That’s not completely unrepresentative of modern therapy, but it’s a very limiting view. Modern therapy goes well beyond tired misconceptions and stereotypes often portrayed in cartoons, television shows and movies.
There are therapists who use art therapy, music therapy, and other forms of therapy on their own or in conjunction with talk therapy. And talk therapy can be used as part of couple’s therapy, substance abuse therapy, and tons of other subsets of therapy. Therapists, too, can be different: an LGBTQ+ person may prefer to speak to a gay therapist, for instance, and therapists can specialize in helping all sorts of communities.
You can afford therapy
Americans are beginning to move past the outdated stigmas that keep so many others from seeking help. But even among Americans who recognize the power and importance of therapy, there are many who do not seek out the help they need because they believe they can’t afford it.
Therapy can be expensive, to be sure. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Some forms of therapy and some particular therapists may be covered in whole or in part by your health insurance provider. And there are affordable therapists out there, too, as well as those who are willing to work for less to help underprivileged clients. There are even apps and online therapy options, although it’s best to head to a therapist in person if you’re able to.
Even if you find it a bit pricey, you should consider saving up (perhaps in a tax-advantaged health savings account) or re-working your budget in order to make it work. Therapy is different from what you’d imagine, and it’s well worth the effort and money.