As therapists, my colleagues and I have been getting lots of calls lately.
The pandemic drags on throughout the United States, and with the increase in cases over the long months, there's a surge in people contacting our therapy offices to take care of their mental health.
Still, every person who decides to see a therapist is fighting against a silent stigma. There is a damaging fallacy that a strong person solves their problems on their own, that only “broken” people need therapy. But more and more, our society is coming to realize that having struggles in life doesn't make us broken, it makes us human. The silver lining is that COVID-19 could create a permanent change in the way that our society views therapy.
Here’s how COVID-19 is changing the way we see therapy
1. First of all, therapy is becoming more the norm.
COVID-19 brings with it myriad stressors including worries about becoming ill, employment issues, increased childcare responsibilities, social isolation, and loss of usual sources of enjoyment. It’s not surprising that more people are seeking mental health services at this time! With the climb in life stress, existential anxiety, and other mental health problems, there’s an increased need for therapy. If you’re seeing a therapist right now, you are helping break the stigma around therapy simply by making therapy more commonplace. And, when you share with others that you’re taking care of your mental health, you’re letting them know that therapy need not be viewed in a negative light—you’re sending the message that “It’s OK to talk to someone. I do.”
2. We are more vulnerable with each other.
Pre-COVID-19: “How are you?”
“I’m fine. How are you?”
Post-COVID-19: “How are you?”
“Honestly, I’ve been feeling so lonely and overwhelmed. You too?”
It’s hard to escape the fact that COVID-19 has been hard on everyone. We’re all experiencing tremendous fear, loss, and uncertainty, and you can be sure that your stories will be met with understanding and support if you tell others about what you’re going through. Because we’re more aware that many people are struggling right now, there’s an unprecedented level of acceptance surrounding disclosure of our emotions and life struggles. We are more emotionally open and understanding of hardship in others’ lives, making it safer to be more vulnerable with one another about our deeper feelings. With breaking the stigma around vulnerability comes a greater societal acknowledgment that people can expose their deeper feelings to a therapist without being seen as “weak” or being judged for seeking help.
3. We are seeing the reality that life is hard for all of us.
Because vulnerability is being de-stigmatized, people are opening up more. It’s easy to feel isolated in your suffering (including experiencing worries, symptoms of depression, etc.) when everyone is afraid to let you in to their inner world and show you that they struggle, too. Nowadays, we are more in touch with a sense of common humanity; the truth is, life is hard for all of us. As the Buddha said, “life is suffering.” It just took a pandemic for us to realize that it’s OK not to be in denial with ourselves and others about the fact that life is hard and we’re not always “fine.”
There's good news
COVID-19 has brought with it lots of bad news. The good news is that therapy can help, and some research suggests that online therapy, the norm in the time of COVID-19, is even more effective than in-person therapy. More good news is that because of our growing vulnerability and greater awareness surrounding mental health and therapy, we are learning that it really is OK to not be OK—and that it’s OK to get help. This pandemic is causing a mental shift that may change the way we see therapy forever. Take care of your mental health and you are advocating for a support system that can change others’ lives as well.
Submitted by Tasha Seiter
New York Times: nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html
Tasha Seiter is a therapist in Fort Collins who provides individual, couples, and family therapy. She considers therapy to be an art and a science and has numerous research publications to her credit. Find out more about her practice at Tasha Seiter Therapy.