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Talking About Talking: The Name Game Part 2

Slowly but surely, our society’s perception of mental illness and therapy is becoming more inclusive and less stigmatized. Even so, less than half of US adults with a mental illness are receiving treatment. In addition, as a recent Daily Campus article opines, the public image of therapy is beginning to sour. Statements in popular culture, such as “[Blank] is my therapy,” while true to some extent, imply that therapy is not only just a minor, everyday thing, but also for people who are so weak as to not be able to provide their own “therapy.” Such statements, then, also imply that if one does see a therapist, it should solve all their problems.

            These statements were probably not designed with the emphasis on the “therapy” part. I would guess that they were meant for people to demonstrate to others their passion for a certain activity. Unfortunately, words can be interpreted in any manner of ways, and some of those ways can have negative impacts. I agree with the points that the author makes, and I want to add a few things. The use of the word “therapy” so glibly makes it seem like treatment for mental health is monolithic and uniform – a rigid definition, one which can lead to dangerous misconceptions. If therapy is viewed as a singular object, it becomes that much easier to attach to it certain connotations, such as the stereotype of the couch, clipboard, and “How does that make you feel?” In this way, the word “therapy” is treated like a foreign, exotic word; it is a means which is to be used only in cases of extreme mental illness, an idea which only further alienates those who do happen to have a mental illness and/or see a therapist. Caring for mental health is something everybody should do with a certain level of care and seriousness. Estranging the word “therapy” just makes help seem like it is so far away. In addition, the idea that therapy is a silver bullet for mental illness can also lead people who go into therapy expecting all their problems to be solved to walk out feeling disappointed that the therapy did not do that. It may convince some people that therapy flat-out does not work. This demonstrates a rule which one should always uphold when interacting with the world: assume complexity. Everything has an impact, often in subtle ways, and failure to see those subtleties can result in negative effects.

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