Sometimes people who would benefit from mental health support hesitate to make this very first step because of the stigma attached to mental illness. The media convey the message that mental health therapy is either scary or something we should be ashamed of.
The therapy is portrayed as an activity that reserved for people with very serious mental health issues. Who visit big, hospital-like looking buildings to see authoritarian therapists who are wearing white clothes. This over-dramatized story goes even further showing the therapists as taking over and making decisions for their frustrated clients. Dictating them on how to behave, what to do, and how to live life.
When we consider this type of story, it is not surprising that many people would rather suffer than access therapy services. Believing they would be patronized and bullied into commitments they are not ready to follow up.
There is also another view of therapists that is seen in American serials and movies. This view portrays the therapists as exclusive life coaches who listen and share their wisdom to support self-improvement and attainment of success for rich American professionals and businessmen.
This is a romanticized view of therapy that results in therapy being perceived as a sign of high status. This view of therapy resulted in therapy becoming increasingly fashionable in the middle- and high-class groups of Westernized societies. The downside is that this story conveys the view that therapy is very expensive and not affordable for an average Australian.
I’m here to tell you from learning and working close to therapists that most of these scenarios describe a stigmatized, skewed picture of reality that cannot be further from the truth.
Here is what I learned
People With Serious Mental Health Presentations Rarely Visit Community Therapy Clinics
This is especially true if they are in the acute stage of their illness. Usually, a mental health condition must be stabilized before the person is able to benefit from therapy.
Mental illness is Not The Necessary Eligibility Requirement For Psychosocial Therapy
Although many people with depression, anxiety, stress, and trauma seek therapy to address their challenges, many people who visit therapists do not have a mental illness. They just stuck in something that is a current problem in their lives. They may go to therapy for all sorts of reasons. This may include serious life challenges or going through difficult life-cycle transitions that may be taxing their current ability to cope. This would be affecting their well-being and ability to function as well as they would like to.
Serious life challenges can be dealing with chronic work-related stressors; career issues; diagnosis of a new health condition or disability, financial problems; health issues or family or parent/child conflict, and academic issues. Examples of difficult life-cycle-related transitions can be the death of a family member or friend; the ending of a romantic relationship or close friendship; family/couple changes related to the addition of a child; getting married or divorced.
Most people are happy to talk about their experiences in therapy and explore potential solutions in partnership with their therapist.
Tall, Hospital Looking Buildings Are Not Necessary For Therapy
There are different ways that therapy can be accessed. In times of high Covid 19 transmission phone and online therapy via zoom or other secure online systems may be useful but going to a clinic may still be available as well.
- Face-to-face services include going to a therapy clinic or a community mental health center. Where you sit in a room and talk to a therapist about the challenges you wish to address.
- Outreach services. Some therapy clinics also offer an outreach service. This often applies to NDIS therapists who visit some of their clients in their houses or community venues.
- Online Therapy.
- Participating in online therapy involves using your computer, laptop, tablet, or mobile phone. Where you can see and talk with the therapist online.
- Telephone sessions involve talking to the therapist on the phone.
Therapists Work In Partnership With Clients
Another stigma that prevents people from using therapy is a common belief that therapists will judge them. But I can reassure you that this is not true. Therapists treat people with the utmost respect and work in partnership with the clients. They are there to listen and use their professional skills to guide you in recovery.
Everyone is unique and has their own ways of communicating, behaving, and interacting with others. There is no right or wrong way to speak to a therapist, as long as you’re being honest.
Therapy is Confidential
No one would know about you accessing therapy and what you talk about in therapy sessions unless you tell them yourself. People who fear that someone would find out about them seeing a therapist please be reassured that the information of who visits therapy services is being kept strictly confidential.
This is also the primary reason why the Australian legislation does not permit university-qualified allied health therapists to allow any customer testimonials on Facebook or their therapy websites.
Therapy is Affordable
Contrary to what some people believe, therapy is affordable for an average Australian. Many therapy clinics offer a sliding scale of fees, that reduced for people on low incomes, for those who are not working or are receiving Centrelink benefits. Organizations such as Medicare or the Department of Veterans Affairs may also be able to cover a large amount of the therapy cost. By providing a rebate reimbursement to the clients.
Most of the therapy clinics would ensure no out-of-pocket expenses for NDIS participants although some psychologists may charge above the NDIS rates.
Many clinics are also able to also negotiate reasonable fees for service packages for privately paying clients.
Therapy is Safe
Therapy is a safe place where you can see a professional about the issue you are currently experiencing. There are different therapists you can see who provide different forms of help and support. This includes
A therapist with a degree in psychology and often years of professional experience practicing it. Psychologists can provide talk therapy and can help find the root causes of problems. They can also support GP in making a diagnosis of certain mental health presentations.
A therapist with a minimum of four years of university social work degree is often supported by post-graduate studies and years of clinical practice experience. Social workers apply a holistic approach to working with people and their families. That encompasses a wide variety of psychological, socio-economic, environmental, and systemic approaches to assist the clients in resolving their challenges. Some social workers also accredited mental health Medicare providers and highly skilled in the provision of clinical mental health services.
Psychotherapists and counselors are often university-qualified practitioners with a broad knowledge of psychotherapeutic modalities, such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. Some counselors may not be university qualified and if you would like to verify their level of qualification. It is best to check with them directly and ask about their level of membership with their professional association (either ACA or PACFA).
Other therapists who provide counseling and psychotherapy services also include Art therapists or Music therapists. Since everyone can call themselves an art therapist, it is also useful to confirm their membership with a relevant professional association. Which would not grant the membership unless qualified and/or experienced in this modality.
Therapists that offer psychological types of services can provide short and long-term therapy. All skilled in problem-solving techniques and identifying and addressing underlining issues. All of them are able to teach techniques to better cope and deal with life’s struggles.
Many psychologists and mental health accredited social workers are also Medicare providers, supporting people with mental illness with active Mental Health Treatment Plans.
There are also many other therapists who do not provide psychological therapies. For example, Occupational therapists, Speech Therapists, Physiotherapists, and so forth. This blog does not discuss these types of therapies.
What Else is Worth Knowing About Psychological Therapies?
There are many different psychotherapeutic modalities that therapists may use in therapy. Three popular forms of psychotherapy described below:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
This type of therapy is an evidence-based modality to help people with: anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and trauma-related disorders. CBT Therapists work with people to look closely at negative or destructive thoughts and processes and help people to develop more positive and healthy ways of thinking about things.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
This therapy is closely related to CBT, but it has a closer focus on processing emotions, practicing mindfulness, and better understanding thoughts and feelings. Therapists teach people new techniques to help them understand and cope with situations in a healthier, more positive way.
This therapy involves the application of a natural process of hypnosis to mobilize the person’s natural resources to resolve their challenges. Hypnosis is a natural state of deep relaxation in which we have heightened focus and concentration. Hypnosis has usually done with the help of a therapist using verbal repetition and mental images, auditory, visual, or other perceptual cues.
The therapists tend to use the approaches in which they trained, skilled and experienced. They also may choose a particular approach because of its evidence in treating certain mental health conditions and presentations.
In addition to this, the approaches adopted in therapy can either be based on one or multiple modalities, hence becoming integrative therapy. Integrative therapy combines different therapeutic tools and approaches to fit the needs of the individual client.
People also often talk about holistic therapy. Holistic therapy is a therapy that attempts to address an individual as a whole person rather than as someone who is sick, just has psychological issues.