Where does the stigma of psychotherapy come from? Often times when asked about my profession I respond with “I am a therapist.” “Oh, what kind?” “A Psychotherapist. I have a practice in East Boca.” “Oh, that kind.” is a common response I hear and from there the proverbial jokes about therapy.
The jokes convey a general discomfort in acknowledging our vulnerability as humans and a stigma about utilizing psychotherapy.
The Stigma Of Psychotherapy – Common Beliefs
When talking about psychotherapy, a common perception I hear is seeking professional help means something is “wrong with me”. I have often heard “she wants me to be fixed”, “am I crazy?”, “I feel weak”, “I cant figure it out on my own.”
These beliefs and the ongoing stigma in therapy can interfere with making a choice to access help or improve daily functioning. The truth about psychotherapy is that it brings things from our unconscious to our consciousness, helps to release and process feelings, learn new ways of coping, let go of defenses and building self esteem.
While many would agree that having a dedicated and safe place to share their troubles is ideal, there is something about the stigma that triggers feelings of embarrassment or shame.
The magic of psychotherapy is in the relationship between client and therapist.
A couple of people sitting together building a relationship where it is safe to expose vulnerability. There are times through the therapeutic process that it is determined that there are other issues which require additional support and referral. These may include deeper psychiatric issues (the prescription of medication), addiction or co-dependency treatment or referral to a 12-step fellowship such as Al-anon or Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous.
Most of the time, therapy is just a supportive place to unload burdensome thoughts and feelings, have undivided therapeutic attention, be completely accepted and receive unbiased feedback.
The most common issues I encounter in working with my clients are:
- Unresolved feelings of anger, fear, sadness and shame about something in their life.
- Poor coping skills
- Defense mechanisms that are hindering their relationships
- A poorly defined sense of self or low self-worth
I recently saw a couple coming into psychotherapy office in Boca Raton complaining of not getting their needs met, not being heard or understood and fearful of the relationship ending. I heard them say “I just want to be accepted for who I am” and “I am who I am and I’m not going to change”.
These things are both important and absolutely true. The goals of therapy are honoring and acknowledging each persons truth and true self. Addressing issues of feelings, coping, defenses and self worth leads to a more clearly defined self and a more confident self.
Believe it or not, these issues do not mean there is anything wrong with you or your parents-it just means you are human and could use a little TLC!