Seeking Therapy Today: Why It’s Important + How It’s Changed

There has long been a misunderstanding about what therapy is and who it’s for.

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There has long been a misunderstanding about what therapy is and who it’s for. It’s a common misconception that you need to hit rock bottom to “qualify” for therapy. Plus, some people think that as long as you have "good friends," you don’t need therapy. (Learn more myths about therapy here.)

In reality, today's therapy is for anyone. It can be preventative, or it can be healing. It can help you if you feel alone and unsupported. On the other hand, it can help you if you feel like your friends are too “biased” to see your perspective. And let's be honest: Sometimes your friends are the ones creating conflict in your life.

Why See a Therapist?

Regardless of how strong your support system is, therapy can help you get an objective perspective.

“Good relationships with peers and loved ones can be really healing and helpful," says Cara Maksimov, LCSW. However, "a friend or a relative has their own personal investment in that relationship that may make it difficult for them to be objective enough to get you the support that you need."

It’s also important to be honest about whether your friends and loved ones are giving you the right kind of support. If you notice you are struggling, but they are telling you it’s “fine” or to “stop being so negative,” you might benefit from talking to a trained professional.

“A therapist is going to fully focus their attention on you and what your needs are ... and it's not a two-way relationship,” says Maksimov. “It's completely about your support and your needs.”

The Changing Perspective of Therapy

Therapy can benefit everyone and anyone, and mental illnesses affect people of all ages. However, Maksimov says she sees generational differences in the openness to therapy.

Older generations may be more secretive or ashamed about seeing a therapist, or the stigma may prevent them from seeking help. On the other hand, younger generations are less likely to hide it, and may even openly discuss therapy with their friends or on social media. This has helped reduce the stigma of mental illnesses.

“I do find that millennials are more likely to talk about therapy, and there's less of the stigma now than there was in the past,” says Maksimov. “I don't know if there's necessarily more mental health issues [among younger generations] but more openness to get treated for mental health.”

The good news: U.S. adults seem to be more open to getting help than ever before. In 2017, 42.6 percent of adults received some type of mental health service, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. If you’re nervous about seeing a therapist, find out what to expect at your first therapy appointment here.