The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports 46.6 million adults experience mental illness in any given year. Of that number, only 41% of adults receive mental health services.
According to Jason M. Joyce, senior director of clinical services at Recovery Resources, and Terry Luria, clinical director at Stella Maris, both in Cleveland, more individuals should seek therapy resources.
But what is therapy?
“It can look a million different ways as there are so many different kinds of therapy,” Luria said. “Therapy is not to tell someone how to change, it is to help them discover within themselves what they need to change. A therapist can be objective about it and that helps people come to their own conclusions. It’s an experience shared between the therapist and the client.”
Joyce described therapy as a “helpful conversation.”
“What you find is there is a magic and a power in talking to someone,” he said. “The two biggest types are individual therapy and group therapy. Individual therapy is a good place to walk through individual goals with the privacy to talk. But in group therapy, there is the power of the group. Group therapy is good at letting people know they aren’t alone.”
Individuals can seek therapy for many reasons, each as valid as the next.
“If you’re looking at it from a diagnostic expression, this could be anxiety, depression or substance abuse,” Joyce explained. “But the vast majority of people experience some sort of mental health issue that might not meet diagnostic criteria.”
Luria added, “A lot of the (reasons) include what has gone on in the past, which has caused us to think or act the way we do in the present. It’s helping people through past traumas that were never resolved. Many people think that if they don’t dwell on something, that it will go away but it doesn’t.”
Though both professionals expressed a belief in the power of therapy, they noted success varies from person to person.
“If someone is being forced to go to therapy, it won’t work,” Luria stated. “If they are unwilling to share and dig into their life, it won’t work. Willingness is a big part of it and it’s a big step. If a person is willing to change and even if they don’t know what that means, that is the beginning.”
Joyce agreed, saying certain issues also need different approaches.
“There are certain issues where talk therapy isn’t great for or it’s not the number one line of defense,” he explained. “If you’re looking at a serious psychosis, the first line of defense would be medication. But what you’ll find is therapy has a deep and long-lasting effect on those who have gone through it.”
Though the idea of therapy has become more accepted, uncertainty isn’t uncommon. But, that should not prevent someone from seeking help, the professionals said.
“One of the biggest things used to be the stigma of having to go talk to someone you pay about your problems and that has been reduced over the years,” Luria said. “It’s about moving past that fear and getting help if you need it. That reluctance can get in your way. There are a lot of different options out there and that makes it obvious that (mental health) is not only one person’s problem, it’s a problem for a lot of people.”
Joyce added, “Therapy does have this stigma and it’s hard sharing with others. But usually, after someone has gone through the process, they’re better from it ... it doesn’t have to be the worst issue in the world. Therapy can be helpful for any of your problems. At the core of it, therapy helps you develop a strong plan for your future and life.”