What Prevents People from Going to Therapy?
Over the last few years, I’ve become extremely passionate about the impact our feelings and emotions have on us due to our failing vision. Two years ago, when I started writing for our awesome community here at MacularDegeneration.net, I didn’t even think twice about the mental health aspect of this disease.
Mental health advocacy
Now, after some personal growth and a lot of research, I’m a HUGE advocate for therapy and am working hard to break down the stigma surrounding it. In this article, I hope to highlight some common barriers that prevent people from seeking help for their mental and emotional health.
Why does it matter
Being diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease that threatens central vision, blindness, loss of independence, and a giant change in what we had planned for the future has some really ugly and scary feelings attached to it.
Shock, anger, frustration, sadness, worry, depression, anxiety, grief, shame, and fear are just a start. How could we not have these feelings? And, more importantly, how could we not need help navigating them?
The dictionary defines stigma as a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. There has been such a negative stigma surrounding mental health therapy in the past that it can feel really defeating or even embarrassing for some to consider seeking help. There’s just no way to sugarcoat it.
Younger generations are very pro mental health; however, many of us here come from generations where that just wasn't the case.
For us - Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials - seeking professional help for emotional needs was portrayed as a weakness more often than not.
Even right there, I almost didn’t type ‘professional help’ for fear that it might scare off a reader. ‘You need professional help’ was used in abomination when I was a kid, and going to a therapist meant there was ‘something wrong with you.'
The fear of being judged or labeled is real.
Learning from younger generations
The younger generations have this one right, friends. They see mental health therapy as a positive and necessary part of growth and becoming. It’s no longer embarrassing to go to therapy, but more something to be proud of.
Think of it this way… we don’t hesitate to see a medical doctor when something is wrong with our physical bodies or when we are sick. Why would seeing a doctor for difficult-to-process emotions be any different? To me, seeking professional help is actually a sign of strength and health.
Overcoming bad experiences
Some of us struggle to trust in mental health therapy because we’ve tried it before and had experiences that left a bad taste in our mouths. I try to look at it this way. Those experiences can be used as guides, so we know what we do or don’t like in a therapist.
Therapist-Patient relationships are just that... relationships. And, in any relationship, the people involved must be a good fit. Maybe our past experiences with a therapist didn’t work because they weren’t the right therapist for us.
Finding the right therapist
Before you see a therapist for the first time, you can research them online. This is an awesome tool that helps to weed out the people that we know, right away, just aren’t going to work for us. We can learn important information about therapists before we even meet them, including their expertise and philosophy on mental health.
You can also try out a few sessions with a therapist before deciding if you’d like to continue working with them in a trial and error process.
Lack of resources
Another reason people choose not to go to therapy is a lack of money and time. Sure, therapy can be expensive without medical insurance. However, that’s no different than seeking help from a medical doctor.
Plus, nowadays, mental health therapy is included as a part of medical insurance plans. That means, when we go to therapy, we usually only pay a copay. It’s just something important to look into when choosing medical insurance policies.
Therapy can be one more thing to do in our schedules, but the reality of it is that it’s just an hour at a time. And with all of the changes due to COVID-19, many therapists see patients via video conferencing, so that means we don’t even need to leave our homes if we don’t want to.
It can feel uncomfortable
Being vulnerable is hard. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Opening up and talking about uncomfortable and scary things is a learned skill that takes practice. But, as with anything else difficult in life, if we stick with it and put in the hard work, the benefits are immeasurable. Practice makes progress, I promise.
I hope that with every article I write about the role mental health plays in macular degeneration, I help someone gain the confidence to seek the help they may need. If I help just one person each time I write, that would mean so much to me.
You’ve got this!
How many eye specialists have you gotten opinions from?