How Has Counselling Changed?
Yes you read the title right. No it’s not a joke. Even though this website is dedicated to helping people, this blog means business.
Let’s dive in.
There’s around 300 million people in the world suffering from depression. That’s a big figure. Almost 5% of the world. And the treatment rates for example in the United States is quite low. Out of 17 million U.S. adults, only 6% received medication alone while 44% combined medication AND health professionals. A massive 35% received no treatment at all. Nothing. So for millions of Americans, they are walking around living their lives with possible symptoms of depression while having no professional help. That is very dispiriting. While it’s difficult to know why some populations receive no treatment while others don’t, it can come down to certain factors in my experience: firstly many people are nervous or lack the proper education of mental health and many don’t even see problems like depression as a ‘mental health disorder’. Secondly, access to the right medication and therapy, depending on geography, can be difficult. I have heard of many clients complain about finding the right therapist, I know how difficult that can be and initial therapist impressions can be important. Thirdly, consistency between therapist and client, or in other words the therapeutic alliance, is crucial to successful therapy and perhaps an in-depth discussion for another time.
So how is therapy ‘dead’? Therapy is not diminished in the literal sense. There are more therapists today than there have ever been. There’s psychodynamic, cognitive behaviour, counsellors, solution-focused and many other therapies around the world. However there is a stigma related to therapy. One should be covert with it, not tell people they are getting therapy. Some cultures promote therapy while others reject it, seeing it as a lack of one’s willpower. There should ultimately be a greater emphasis on promoting therapy for those that need it; access to therapy has become somewhat easier with online therapy services and smartphone app-based services. It sounds like the modern era of therapy, distancing itself from the cliched therapist glistening over his/her notes with the client resting on the chaise lounge, gazing in to the distance. Yet for others, they find other ways of therapeutic help, far away from medication and psychotherapy but what research has shown widely accepts the medical-therapy model; a combination of pharmaceutical drugs and professional therapy as well as standalone treatments are best suited to the most common mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression.
So while there is much research support for therapy, there still lurks problems within the therapy field which in fact doesn’t stem from therapy, but from other fields. In the grand scheme of things, the health care field has become a giant financial monopoly which has caused controversy throughout the years. There has been lots of competition in the pharmaceutical field to discover new drugs to help people fight the aforementioned mental health disorders without the baggage of side effects. Until there is competition for the ‘best’ treatment, it seems there will be less emphasis to help those that require it when there is lack of congruence between medical and mental health professionals. So please let’s stop the discrimination and start joining together for the end goal is the same.
For people who need therapy, it can be a wonderful experience and there will be many people who are afraid, nervous, embarrassed to attend therapy yet all those feelings are valid and normal. It’s part of the experience when something foreign and different is experienced but that’s what motivates us all too. Imagine if we all stopped feeling anxious and never felt an adrenaline rush during a speech, a new job, or a house move. The rush our body gets helps to motivate us, it’s comforting to know our bodies ‘psyche’ us up but too much can have the opposite effect also.
While therapy isn’t dead, the profession has toughened up to seeking out more talented individuals to join the bandwagon. We all became therapists for a reason, because I believe we all care and do the best we can. Most of us went through the same dilemmas as the clients who come to see us and for that, we get you. We really do.