By: Janki Shah
This denial and embarrassment permeates the thoughts of many individuals. Many people do not know what psychotherapy entails but they usually associate it with seeing the “shrink” or being weak because of the need to seek help from others, or the fear of bringing up painful memories. Some clients have made the decision to go to therapy but actively try to hide this fact from their social support system such as their friends or family fearing their opinions and judgments. Unfortunately they are not wrong to fear this because it happens more often than we can imagine. The major obstacle hindering individuals to seek therapy is due to self-stigma, or the internalization of an already existing public stigma influencing their actions and their emotions.
Patients and physicians would rather have a quick fix through medications rather than the long term benefits that they might receive from psychotherapy, such as an increased sense of well-being and a better understanding of feelings and behaviors.  Sounds much better than pills to me! According to a recent NY Times article, the number of patients receiving medications alone has increased by 23% whereas those receiving psychotherapy along declined by 34%, making it drastically underutilized.  However this is not to say medications are not required, because the case varies depending on the individual. But research has shown that the use of medication for mental health illnesses works best in conjunction with some type of therapy or counseling . So not only is there a stigma surrounding depression as an illness but also its potential therapies. Studies have shown that psychotherapy is not only safe but also effective in patients who have depression and anxiety.  But sadly, patients underestimate the effectiveness of these therapy techniques but so do physicians, insurers, and the rest of the public. Unfortunately big pharmaceutical companies have the upper hand here, because they are able to provide scientific evidence of their drugs and have the financial backup to control the market, neither which are actually helping those with depression and anxiety.
Unfortunately many refuse to accept the enrichment and relief one can gain from psychotherapy. The words "weak", "failure", and "sensitive" need to stop being associated with therapy and treatment options because only then can we correlate therapy to individuals that are strong and courageous to do what is best for them, even if it means bringing up painful feelings. We can slowly eliminate the stigma by having the right attitude and mind set, by first eliminating the stereotypes surrounding those individuals, whether they be psychologists, therapists, counselors, who are dedicating their lives to empowering and improving the quality of life of others. We also need work on advertising the efficacy of therapy to clients, physicians, policy makers and insurers. Therapy is a way to disentangle our thoughts, have a better understanding of our feelings and beliefs, and reminisce and reflect on your actions, something that we should all gravitate towards, whether we have a mental illness or not.
 Schniederman, N. (2007). Mental and Physical Health Influence Each Other. The Great Ideas of Clinical Science: 17 Principles that Every Mental Health Professional Should Understand. (329-336).
 Gaudiano, Brandon A. (2013, September 29). Psychotherapy’s Image Problem. The New York Times. Retrieved October 4, 2013. (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/30/opinion/psychotherapys-image-problem.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0)