Author: Ana Norio Bran
2020 proved to be the year of many changes in the lives of so many people. Having to deal with a global pandemic was a tough situation for essential workers, children, and families. With so much uncertainty in the world, it became easier for many people to feel alone and isolated, with no one to turn to. As a result, there has been a negative impact on people’s mental health suffering from different stressors. People are understanding that to get through such a difficult period, putting their mental health first is the key. So what are people doing to improve their mental health in these times of crisis? The answer is simple - therapy.
Misconceptions of Therapy
When the idea of therapy comes to mind, some people still have a response shaped by stigma, thinking that you have to be “crazy” or “weak” to need therapy and that because you can’t fix it on your own, there might be something “wrong” with you. This thinking leads to fear and shame around seeking help. When the idea of therapy comes into someone’s mind, it can sometimes be seen as a scary thing. “Am I crazy?” or “Is there something wrong with me?” can be the first questions someone may ask themselves when considering seeking therapy. There can often be a societal stigma associated with having or acknowledging one’s mental health issues, and some may feel that they are considered “atypical” to society. When addressing one’s mental health it is viewed as a deviation from societal norms, people might feel ashamed for the way they are feeling, which prevents them from seeking professional help. Thankfully, attitudes towards mental health are changing for the better in today’s society. In a study conducted by the National Alliance of Mental Health, researchers found that 20.6% of individuals experience mental illness like anxiety and stressors of everyday life. While the prevalence of these issues has seen a steady increase since 2019, it has shown that only 1 in 20 people experience severe mental health issues. The misconception that only people with severe mental health issues can seek therapy is something that limits people from seeking help, but thankfully, we have seen that stigma being broken down.
While therapy is known to target these specific areas, it also works with individuals suffering from anxiety and uncertainty, which many are experiencing in today’s climate. When increasing numbers of Coronavirus cases were first being published, people were reporting a negative effect on their mental health caused by anxiety and stresses of the world. Kaiser conducted a study in the United States in March of 2020, which found that 32% of people at the start of the lockdown were worried about their mental health, and within a week, it rose to 45%. This rise was due to many different issues including the future of current jobs, economic impact, and risk of exposure to Covid-19. These issues have shown individuals that they are not the only one’s dealing with these anxieties and uncertainties, many are in the same position. The pandemic has shown many people the importance of therapy and shown them that there is help.
What is Therapy?
Dr. Ryan Howes, Ph.D., ABPP, a clinical psychologist in California is an advocate for debunking misconceptions of what therapy entails. Seeking therapy can be used to improve your everyday life. Therapists use different techniques to better understand their clients to provide the best solutions to their problems. Therapy offers opportunities to self-reflect, and often the therapist will work alongside the client to come up with ways in which one can live a healthier and more productive lifestyle. Especially within this current global pandemic, therapists provide their skills to help clients with managing stressors of life and cope with the overwhelming amount of uncertainty they might have.
Because there are numerous reasons why someone might want to consider therapy, there are different theoretical approaches that a therapist may use. Some of these include but are not limited to:
Depending on the reasons why someone is seeking therapy, the individual may want to do their research to determine which of these approaches (or others) may be the best fit for them. Although therapy where you lie on the couch, talk about your childhood and mother is still what some therapists do, and some are just there for a supportive ear, many therapists are focused on helping you to make changes to achieve your goals in the present, helping you overcome difficulties, and strengthen relationships in your life, so that you have others to turn to, rather than staying in therapy for years. Many providers will have a website or information listed about their approach online, where potential clients may learn more about their practice and find the therapist that is the right fit for their issues and goals.
Therapy in Today’s Climate
Most therapists have been working from home during the pandemic, which is one reason why teletherapy has become very popular. Teletherapy is remote therapy that is done through the use of technology to receive counseling in areas of an individual’s choice. This form of therapy is done in many ways including, by phone, messaging, and the most used to date, video-conferencing. Individuals are finding that this allows them to remain socially distanced but also stay connected virtually. There has been a sharp increase in remote therapies that are being offered remotely for individuals to get help and feel heard.
While some consumers may be skeptical that remote therapy is as good as in person therapy, research has found that it is just as effective as in person. In a 2013 review in the Telemedicine Journal and E-Health, researchers found that video-conferencing therapy was just as effective for most parameters, like feasibility, outcomes, age, and satisfaction, which has continued to grow since then. Online therapy has shown many benefits including flexibility, convenience, affordability, and same confidentiality as with in person. Individuals can schedule a time that works best with their schedules to meet with a therapist without having to leave their homes. This gives therapists the chance to see individuals in a more comfortable environment and get a sense of who they are outside of an office setting. Research has also found that individuals are more likely to seek out remote therapy because of the affordable costs. With having to drive to and from the therapist’s office, the costs were higher for clients but now that there is a remote option, individuals are finding it easier to get a consultation at a cheaper price. As some therapists are going back to the office, they are finding that many of their clients are wanting to stay online because it is so convenient.
It is important to remember that you don’t have to deal with your struggles alone. Licensed therapists are available and want to help you. Through therapy, it is important to discuss everything you might be going through and what you may feel comfortable sharing. By being open and willing to share, professionals will help you tackle them head-on through the therapy that best fits. Remote therapy is providing a greater opportunity for individuals to seek out professionals especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. Therapists are wanting to help you in any area that you might need counseling in and guide you through the whole process. Whether it is by phone, messaging, or video-conferencing, remote therapy is available to those wanting the opportunity to seek help.