Over the years, I’ve heard many creative names for therapy, quite reflective of the various stigmas. Some of my favorites are hocus pocus, mental brainwashing, and headshrinking. Now hocus pocus sounds kind of fun, perhaps because of its magical association. Unfortunately, to this day, the realm of therapy or counseling still remains quite mysterious to most people, somewhat like a magic trick. What really happens in that room? What do they do? Will I still be myself when I leave. If I go to a therapist, does that mean I’m crazy, weak or a failure? What will others think? What if I’m seen coming out of that kind of office? Such concerns are quite natural given our socio-cultural conditioning. Unfortunately, as a result, many people decide not to pursue counseling despite experiencing significant emotional, physical or mental distress.
Let’s clarify a few things. Most people who initiate counseling do not have a serious mental illness. They have serious life challenges or are going through difficult life-cycle transitions that may be taxing their current ability to cope. This, in turn, may be adversely affecting their well-being and ability to function as well as they would like. Examples of serious life challenges can be dealing with chronic work-related stressors; career issues; financial problems; health issues or a recent health diagnosis; family or parent/child conflict; cultural assimilation; and academic issues. Examples of difficult life-cycle related transitions can be the death of a family member or friend; the ending of a romantic relationship or close friendship; family/couple changes related to the addition of a child; getting married or divorced; caregiving for loved ones due to illness or disability; and decision-making challenges related to these life choices. (Dana Gionta, Psychology Today)