This is probably the most common thought about therapy I hear, and unfortunately one of the largest misconceptions. I have a few different thoughts about this, and please excuse my soapbox as this is one of the things I am most passionate about!
The dentist: First, I would like you to think about our society’s perception about our oral healthcare. Most of our insurances will cover two visits to the dentist per year, not intended to fix things that are wrong, but to prevent things from going bad, to keep us healthy. People are aware that if you don’t take care of your teeth, bad things like infections and oral diseases can happen. So to prevent this, everyone is on the same page about getting check-ups, and people don’t look at each other weird for saying they have a dentist appointment. Now, I would like to ask you why it is that our teeth are more important to us than our brains? Just as things going wrong in your mouth can affect other parts of your body’s wellbeing, the brain definitely has an effect on the rest of your body. Literally almost every function in your body is processed through your brain in some way. So again, why is it that we don’t think of taking care of our brain in the same way we take care of our teeth?
Imagine a world (that I’m working on making a reality) in which we think of our mental healthcare in a similar way we think of our oral. Imagine our insurances covering a few check-ups a year, where you can meet with a therapist and just check-in. Are you feeling stuck, or do you feel like you’re living your best life? Do you need to process something that’s been bothering you with someone completely unbiased and non-judgmental? These check-ups could help catch things before they got too bad. Many of us try to cope with stress by avoiding them, by brushing them under the rug or into a closet. That is, until it all comes busting out the seams and you’re forced to deal with it. But, at this point, it’s much more work to come back. What if we thought about preventing mental illness or crises in the same way we prevented cavities? What if, like parents make sure their children brush their teeth, they also made sure to check in with their emotional well-being?
But, don’t only crazy people go to therapy? Well, the short answer is NO! There are many different reasons people seek therapy. Sometimes it’s a diagnosable mental illness, such as Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Anxiety or Schizophrenia. But much more often it’s more common life stressors, such as transitioning different life phases or trouble in relationships. And while we’re on the subject, what is “crazy” anyways? Is it those diagnosable disorders? Again, it is my belief that these are results of a lack of prevention in the first place. So, if we continue to think of our mental healthcare in the same way we currently do, this will only make this thought true. If we keep thinking that only “crazy” people go to therapy, then by the time you are at your wit’s end and turn to therapy, you might be someone that’s made it to a diagnosis.
The moral of the story is that you don’t have to wait until it’s bad. Think of checking in with a therapist every once and a while as a preventative tool to make sure you’re where you want to be. You don’t have to go to weekly sessions if you don’t feel like there is something you need to actively work on. But if there is, that doesn’t make you crazy. In my opinion, it makes you responsible and someone who cares for their health. Because remember, your mental health affects all of your other areas of wellness: social (your relationships), physical (your body is affected too! think about panic attacks), financial, and so on! Once we all start thinking this way, the taboo around mental health will start to fade. I believe this will set us up for more successful and healthy lives!
If you feel like I’ve got it all wrong, or have further thoughts on this topic, feel free to reach out!
Your listening ear,