Only about a third of people who’ve been diagnosed with depression by a primary care doctor seek treatment, according to 2018 study. Yet, research suggests that treatments, including psychotherapy, may significantly reduce depression and anxiety symptoms.
Not everyone needs to see a therapist. But nearly 1 in 5 people in the United States has been diagnosed with a mental health condition. Many of them may benefit from talking with a professional.
So why aren’t more people getting treated? And how can we normalize psychotherapy?
Finding the right psychotherapist
I once had hesitations and concerns around seeing a therapist due to deeply embedded stigma. I’ve worked through those and am now a big advocate for psychotherapy. I can finally afford regular sessions, and I’ve found a psychotherapist who’s the right fit for me.
I know it’s not an easy process. I’ve worked with a few different psychotherapists during periods of my adult life when I was struggling the most. Each had their own style, workflow, and values. The worst experience was a clinician who kept bringing their personal values into our discussions that didn’t align with my own around marriage, religion, and other topics.
I’ve heard stories from members of The One Project’s mental health apps about the barriers, frustrations, and successes of using psychotherapy to better manage depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.
It may take trial and error to find the right therapist, but it’s well worth the effort once you do.
Accessing affordable care
I personally believe psychotherapy is one of the greatest investments I’ve made in myself. But I also know that one of the most pressing barriers to getting treatment for many people is simply the cost.
Psychotherapy can be expensive, especially if it’s not covered by your health insurance.
Fortunately, there are a few options to help alleviate the financial impact:
It can also be challenging to access the information you need to understand what psychotherapy is, how to choose a psychotherapist, and how to check whether your sessions are covered by your insurance.
Thankfully, organizations are starting to tackle this to help improve their services online and build systems that help make this happen.
For example, MyTransHealth was a crowdfunded project that works to ensure all trans and gender-nonconforming people receive culturally competent service.
In Canada, Foundry is working to help connect youth with over 140 different mental health and wellness partners across British Columbia through integrated service centers and their website.
Breaking down the mental health stigma
I believe that the most important step toward normalizing psychotherapy is to talk more openly about depression and anxiety. We’ve finally begun to do so over the last decade. I’ve personally been discussing and advocating for mental health for years.
Maybe you’re OK with talking with your friends about your struggles and even posting about it online, yet you’re still scared to get a proper diagnosis. Or you worry that you’ll be judged for seeing a therapist.
Either way, I feel like we have a lot of work to do to break down the stigma around mental health. Some of the discussions I hear around mental health are often based on outdated fiction or fear.
Therefore, the more we have conversations that reflect our reality, the more empowered we’ll be to get the help we need.
Normalizing the conversation
Many people aren’t comfortable talking to their best friends about seeing a new psychotherapist or making exciting progress in psychotherapy.
Talking with friends, family, and coworkers more openly about what you’re going through encourages others to end the silence around their struggles.
It doesn’t have to be a heavy and hard conversation. Try and bring it up in a casual, everyday discussion. It’s important to make mental health discussions feel natural and normal.
Maybe you mention that you’re seeing your therapist as you share your plans for the following week. Maybe you say you’re thrilled to finally find an amazing therapist as you discuss other wins and successes.
Your friends may just open up about their own recent depression diagnosis or experiences with psychotherapy. That could mean the discussion was more helpful than you perhaps expected.
We have a long way to go to ensure that everyone who may benefit from psychotherapy seeks and obtains the support they need. We can begin to change things by talking about our mental health and encouraging our friends to do the same.
Speaking of, it’s time to head out for my next psychotherapy session!
For more information on how to manage depression, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team.
NPS-US-NP-00649 MAY 2020