Myth No. 3: “Therapy is only for treating ‘disorders’ and not for personal growth.”
Reality: Most Western medicine focuses on the treatment of disease rather than its prevention. I remember when I first came across the decades-old idea of doctors staying in business by keeping people healthy, rather than relying on people getting sick. Thankfully, the paradigm shift toward preventative care has begun to manifest in earnest, especially with naturopathic and holistic approaches.
But where does mental health treatment sit on this continuum? Is therapy warranted only for the treatment of mental health issues or is it a valid form of personal, emotional, and spiritual growth? The answer depends on who you ask.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA), an organization which has taken the liberty of believing it is the authority on everything mental health, has published five versions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Although the APA aimed to be atheoretical when developing past versions of the DSM, it would no doubt rule that therapy should be administered only as part of a treatment protocol for specific DSM diagnoses. At the risk of making an unfair generalization, I’d say the APA would vote in this direction largely because the majority of its members probably have not done their own therapy. Ouch. There, I said it.
No doubt there would be consensus among the APA and health-maintenance organizations. Imagine the financial consequences to insurance companies if preventative mental health treatment was as widely respected and viewed as being as necessary as preventative medical care.
So, do the tens of thousands of mental health providers in the United States also think therapy is warranted only for the treatment of mental health disorders?
My assessment from doing my own psychotherapy and from speaking with hundreds of therapists is that most view therapy as having multiple purposes. Not only can therapy address specific symptoms and “disorders,” it can reduce suffering, teach new skills, build self-compassion, help people find true forgiveness, grow self-esteem, and release long-harbored burdens. In addition, therapy, being a reflective process, can help people to “find themselves,” to self-actualize, to work through spiritual challenges, and to deepen the sense of spirituality, connection, and purpose in their lives.
Editor’s note: For more articles examining common myths and fears surrounding psychotherapy, please click here.
© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.