A Beginner’s Guide to Therapy

[avatar user=”dponieman” size=”thumbnail” align=”left”]Diego Ponieman, M.D. M.P.H.[/avatar]When it comes to seeing a therapist, far too many people don’t have a clue as to where to start. The process of finding the right therapist can be daunting, and cultural misconceptions about mental health can prevent asking others for help.  These myths and misconceptions vary according to culture and age group, but they all share stigma that can keep people – especially in communities of color – from seeking necessary treatment.

Let’s debunk some come therapy myths.


Myth #1: You must be “crazy” to see a therapist.

Many people think one needs to be exhibiting some form of erratic behavior or dealing with trauma to go to therapy. This is far from true.  According to the World Health Organization, more than 300 million people around the world suffer from some form of depression. Despite this, more than 50% of people don’t seek any help in the form of therapy. The stress of everyday life can be difficult to handle and discussing those challenges with a trained professional certainly doesn’t make anyone “crazy.”


Myth #2: I’m too old for therapy.

Older generations are particularly hesitant to seek help, often holding outdated misconceptions about therapy. Research shows that 47% of older adults think they don’t need any form of mental health care, believing they can handle it on their own. However, studies have shown that mental health intervention at a later age works just as well as early in life.


Myth #3: “My” people don’t go to therapy.

People want to ensure that their therapist will understand them, and many communities of color prefer working with therapists who share their language and culture. However, a lack of diversity in the mental health field leads to many people of color feeling their therapist will not understand them. Work with local non-profit organizations, like SOMOS Community Care, to find culturally and linguistically competent mental health care in your community. Regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or religion – therapy can be helpful for everyone.


Myth #4: I can handle my problems on my own.

Most of us are not mental health professionals, so we lack the training and expertise necessary to identify and properly treat ourselves. Mental health is incredibly layered and complex. Seeing a professional therapist can help one view their issues from a new perspective and find the treatment that they may not even know exists.

We now know more about mental health than ever before, and it’s time to shatter the myths that keep too many from seeking help. If you or a loved one are struggling, speak to your doctor about ways you can help yourself.