Changing The Conversation

For some, there’s a negative stigma surrounding the word ‘therapy’ that can serve as a major deterrent from seeking help. Many may feel disappointed in themselves or judged by loved ones. Some even grapple with feelings of guilt or worthlessness after recognizing the need for therapy. As a clinician, do you seem to find yourself looking for effective ways to normalize getting help for your clients? 

The negative feelings a person may have regarding therapy can stem from any number of past or current experiences. Consequently, there is no one recommendation that will help you remove the stigma for each patient – but a varied approach could help address and normalize these issues. 

Ask Your Clients About Therapy Sessions

It is natural to focus on the immediate matter at hand during therapy sessions, whatever the reason may be. However, it is also important to ask clients about their thoughts on why they are seeking help and how they went about it. Some may share their feelings about being in therapy or how others have reacted to the information. This may be important to understand their immediate attitude and how you can help break the stigma surrounding seeking care.

Break the “Crazy” Myth

Research from Bradley University points out that the stigma surrounding therapy is directly correlated with society’s view of mental health. It confirms that these stereotypes reduce the likelihood of people seeking help and also hinder the healing process. Those who seek help often struggle with personal feelings or external bullying that paints a picture of the “crazy” person needing treatment. An open mind is essential to getting better, and sometimes professionals have to help their clients get to that point. Anyone can benefit from therapy – no matter what their background is.

Teach Coping Mechanisms

Professional behavioral health services can help people overcome some of the most devastating trials in their lives, one of the many reasons why it’s so valuable. However, if your client does not know how to cope with the adverse reactions to therapy from others, they may begin to see therapy as part of the problem. Prepare them for potential negative reactions from family and friends and equip them with the coping mechanisms necessary to tackle this. Then, return to the issue at hand.

Consider Group Therapy

Research done by Bradley University believes that clients may feel less awkward about therapy once they realize how many other people from all walks of life rely on it. Occasional group therapy sessions may help make this possible. If you do not personally host group therapy sessions, you may recommend local community outreach programs instead.

Be Mindful of Word Usage

Sometimes, how clients feel about therapy comes from subconscious reactions to specific words. For instance, if someone already thinks they are ‘crazy’ for seeking help, terms like ‘patient’ and ‘suffer from’ may not help break this mindset. Research  confirms that these terms and others like them often have negative connotations that may also dehumanize the individual. It also recommends reconsidering the phrasing of diagnoses. For instance, it is better to say “someone who has schizophrenia” instead of labeling an individual as “a schizophrenic.”

Encourage Daily Sessions

The more often someone engages in a particular activity, the more desensitized to it they become. Your client may not have the means or time to meet with you several times per week. However, there are other things they can make personal time for each day. The regular addressing of mental health may help to desensitize the negative feelings that accompany therapy sessions. These are some tasks to consider assigning for personal me-time sessions such as journaling daily, keeping a gratitude journal, and doing daily meditations.

Take Varied Approaches

As mentioned earlier, the reasons behind the stigma people internalize may differ. Take time to understand the problem and the client before deciding how you will address the issue. In some cases, you may find it is better not to address the issue at all or not in the beginning. There are many instances of clients starting sessions enthusiastically and only running into negative perceptions from others after the fact. In some cases, they may never experience this negativity at all. Being the first to bring up the potential stigma to prepare patients before it happens may do more harm than good.

Regardless of how you think your client should treat therapy, they will have their boundaries in place. Strike a balance between guiding them in the right direction and respecting their existing boundaries. 

The Bottom Line

One of the biggest mistakes behavioral health professionals make is to wait until the beginning of sessions to advocate for clients. The work begins outside of the office. It starts with family, friends, and even other colleagues. Educating the general public can help reduce the likelihood of negative reactions for others. There are more people in therapy than ever before. Millennials have been credited with spearheading this development. This trend signals that the stigma is lifting, making it easier for you to normalize therapy. Having a stable platform to depend on for strong referrals can further help build trust in behavioral health services as part of a standard, holistic treatment. Start your free trial on TPN.Health to access more trusted referrals today.

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