“Counseling offices don’t belong on main streets! People want to go some place discreet, where they won’t be seen by many others; somewhere secluded, where no one knows them, or a place surrounded by other businesses so no one really knows what they are there for.” These were the initial reactions I got when considering a move to Main St. in downtown Covington, KY. Being totally honest, I used to think this way, too. I believed that discretion is what people wanted or needed to feel comfortable. It’s just the way things have typically been done in this field. But why?
Why Aren’t We Talking about Therapy?
In a nutshell, there are two primary reasons for the obsession with discretion:
1) safety concerns
2) a long-standing social stigma around seeking counseling
In some situations, going to therapy in a public setting could jeopardize folks’ physical, emotional, or psychological safety, those who are impacted by domestic violence, for example. More commonly, though, therapy has long been viewed as something for “crazy” people, individuals with “really serious” problems, or “weak” people. This attitude has played a major role in creating the need for confidentiality. There are lots of reasons people aren’t being open about therapy, including:
- Fear of repercussions, such as being mocked by a partner or family member who disapproves
- Influential or prominent people may feel they are jeopardizing their reputation by admitting they have problems
- Anxiety around causing worry, alarm, or being judged that they must be doing “really bad” to seek therapy
- Perceived or real professional risk, like missing out on a promotion because asking for help means they’ve failed or are too weak to handle it on their own.
These are just a few examples of the thinking patterns that cause folks to seek discretion in their therapeutic journey.
Why Should We Share?
The reality is that we ALL find ourselves in need of support throughout our lives. None of us have it all together all of the time. From my perspective, those who are willing to admit this and try to do something about it, are actually the brave ones. They’ve realized there’s no need to try to navigate doing the sometimes hard, deep work of change alone and they are reaching out for help. As more people realize the bravery required to seek help, the negative stigma will shift, and we won’t feel we need to hide (in most cases) our experiences with counseling.
Getting Out in the Open
So, why not put a counseling office in the center of our daily lives? What if going to therapy was seen as a common activity, like going out to eat, grabbing a coffee or doing some shopping? My goal is to foster not only a normalized, but a celebrated approach to therapy. So, I took the risk and opened Vivify Counseling and Wellness right smack dab in the middle of Mainstrasse in downtown Covington, where you can see your therapist after grabbing a pastry next door and before you pick up a gift for a friend or meet one for a meal.
The reception in the community has been phenomenal. The social taboo around seeking mental health support is dissipating and brave people are showing up. Covingtonians are walking to their sessions. Even more from all over NKY and Cincinnati are willing to search for parking and navigate the urban area. It’s happening. Increasingly, largely due to COVID, admitting we are not totally ok and reaching out for help is becoming acceptable and even encouraged. During COVID, people who never struggled with depression or anxiety, experienced what thousands of others had already been coping with. I hear it in my office over and over again, “I never would have considered going to a counselor a couple of years ago,” or “I was doing ok…and then COVID.” Folks who would normally never admit they needed support found themselves sitting across from a therapist. This continues even into a post-pandemic world as society continues to shift towards becoming more accepting of others’ (and our own) need to not tackle life alone.
You Can Help
Even if you aren’t in need of counseling right now, I invite you to be a part of this change. Discuss going to see a counselor like it’s normal, similar to going to the doctor (*note we are not medical doctors!). Support those who are brave enough to reach out for help. If you’ve seen Vivify Counseling and Wellness’ building, or other great groups that provide mental health therapy in your area, point it out to people you know. Bring these places into the forefront of your mind, so when tough times hit, we all have an idea of where to turn and we can feel good about it, too.