There is Still a Stigma to Seeing a Psychologist

As much as I would love to say it is not so, there still is a stigma to seeking help from a psychologist. Recently a new client said she needs to know whether she is mad or not.  And this is in 2017! It may have been said jokingly but clearly was a concern for her. What she really needed is an independent and trusted sounding board. Someone who can help her understand herself better and establish more helpful coping strategies. Does that make her mad?

Reasons for the stigma

So what do I hear from friends, employees and clients about the stigma around psychologists? Here are some of the responses I have heard:

  • “Others will think I am mad or unstable.”
  • “My family and boss will think I cannot cope. I may lose my job then.”
  • “I feel I should be strong enough to deal with issues myself.”
  • “There must be something the matter with me if I need to see a psychologist.”
  • “How can a psychologist really help me?”
  • “It is a waste of money.”

Some thoughts to neutralise the stigma

Recently a friend of mine who is a movement therapist said most of her really close friends are therapists. So why is this so?  She cited various reasons. One of our main objectives is to create an emotionally safe space for a client to explore who they are. We listen deeply, suspend judgement and honour the other person’s journey. As a result the client begins to open up.

If we are good at what we do, we ask insightful questions that help an individual find their own solutions. Only if a client feels comfortable and feels a connection with the psychologist will the real work happen. No one wants to feel exposed. Consequently it is my role as psychologist to be gentle and extremely respectful of the fact that I am in your sacred territory.

We have all heard of cases where someone had a bad experience with a psychologist. Perhaps the psychologist was too confrontational. Or perhaps they gave advice and did not listen well. It could be that the psychologist failed to take the time to build a solid relationship of trust. As a result it reflects poorly on psychologists as a whole.

Health and personal well-being

It is easy to use money as a reason why not to seek help. Many individuals choose to continue without help until their health suffers. A typical example is the A type personality business man. Others perceive him as strong, driven and successful. Deep down he is anxious and frustrated. His relationship with his spouse and family is problematic. He feels isolated and alone. He fears the stigma of seeking help. And so he rather suffers in silence. Even after a heart attack he struggles to open up.

Or there is the corporate executive who makes no time to take care of her own well-being. She feels she is too busy to see a psychologist and that it is unnecessary. What would her family say? And then she develops breast cancer. Breasts symbolise nurturing. She has a mastectomy. A good psychologist would have helped her find better balance in her life. Instead she waited until her health gave her a drastic wake-up call.

Remember the last place where any imbalance in our life manifests is in our physical health. Long before that we have several warning bells. Do we choose to take note or not?

How can a psychologist help?

The reality is that we are human. This means we are imperfect beings living an imperfect life. So we will experience good and difficult times throughout life. At times we feel strong and able to cope with the challenges. But clearly there are times when our resilience is low and we need temporary support.

If your car has a problem you do not think twice about taking it to be serviced. Any piece of equipment requires maintenance. We do not take it personally that it requires a service.

So why take it personally when you experience a particularly trying time in your life and feel you need help?

How well do you look after your mental, emotional and spiritual well-being? Psychologists can help you connect with your true essence and flourish.


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Posted in Therapy, Well-being.