May is a big month for mental health professionals. It is a month when mental health is celebrated and not shamed or discriminated. Your private life is private, which is a big reason why mental health feels like a "taboo" topic. There was a time in America when cancer was not even spoken out loud- can you imagine? While we do not expect people to go around airing their problems related to their mental health in public, we hope to empower those with mental health struggles that their concerns are real and that they are not alone. If you are in need of mental health therapy, or know of someone who may benefit, here are some facts that may help you understand what to expect.
1. You are not alone, but you are unique. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, 1 in 5 people in America struggle with a mental health diagnosis. While there are many people who have depression and experience similar symptoms, each individual's experience with the diagnosis is different. In therapy, it is the individual's personal experience and struggles that are the focus of treatment.
2. In order for something to be deemed clinical, it has to negatively impact your life. Everyone approaches and responds to situations differently. While one plan of action may be helpful for one person, it may be damaging for another. With that being said, if a challenge or method of coping is detrimental to your wellbeing yet you continue to engage in them, you are likely in need of clinical help. Something is defined as detrimental if it impairs your ability to enjoy life, develop relationships, maintain a job, or negatively affects your safety, or the safety of others. For example, a person may drink alcohol everyday after work in order to take the edge off. For one person, this may mean they drink one glass of wine while watching TV, but for another it may mean drinking glass after glass at a bar, causing them to receive multiple DUI's. For the latter person, their method of coping has reached a clinical need as they are constantly putting their safety at risk, as well as the safety of others.
3. You do not have to have a diagnosis to go to therapy. Life is tough, especially when it changes. We often see people in therapy who do not need to be diagnosed. Sometimes, a person only has to come to therapy 2 or 3 times to feel a sense of relief, in this case, they would likely not fit the requirements for a diagnosis. Some people feel relief when they finally have some idea of what is going on and a treatment. Other people feel labeled and stigmatized, in which case a diagnosis may do more harm than good. The purpose of a diagnosis is really to treat a person, and not to label them. A doctor is not going to write a prescription for a cold that they might for an inner ear infection. In order to treat something accurately, we have to have a name. One way we know that we are dealing with a misdiagnosis, may be ineffective treatments.
4. A diagnosis will be on your insurance record for life. What people do not know is that to use your insurance you HAVE to have a diagnosis. That is right! Your insurance company requires a diagnosis. It makes sense that they want to know what they are paying for, but at the same time, if you do not meet the criteria for a diagnosis, it is unethical for a mental health professional to give you one. But, if you have a diagnosis and need to file it on record, it is important to know the impact this diagnosis may have.
Now, I am not trying to scare you, or intimidate you about your “personal record,” but a lot of people do not know about this, and in order to make an informed decision you need to be informed. This all depends on how you feel about a diagnosis. Technically, this is your personal health care information and your insurance will not be sharing it with anyone. The only time a diagnosis may be released is when you give your consent. Some high-stress jobs, such as law enforcement, the military, and various helping professions conduct a background check on your personal health record. This does not mean you will not get a job in these areas if you have a mental health diagnosis, but certain diagnoses could make an applicant ineligible, depending on the job.
5. Being in therapy is hard work. I often tell my clients that I am like a personal trainer for the mind. If you want to see results you have to do the work. A big part of therapy is talking. Often times, the action takes place outside of the therapy setting, such as practicing coping skills when having a panic attack. But, if you don't put the words into practice, change is unlikely, therefore, it is important to consider if you are ready for change. Therapy is also a place and time to dig deeply into your. It is important to consider if you are ready for mental spring cleaning, as things can get dirty. But don’t worry, your friendly therapist is there to help you clean it up.
For some, therapy might mean that they are “broken” or “bad,” but others view going to therapy as self-care and a chance to finally having time and space for themselves. Therapy is not always long term, nor is it always short term. Going to therapy does not mean you are broken, it means you are ready to confront, tackle, and overcome the challenges that ache you. If you are interested in learning more about how therapy can help, give us a call or check out our website.