Telling someone to, “just go to therapy” seems to be a common refrain these days. After all, therapy no longer has the extreme social stigma it used to for many communities, and more people are now accepting it as a helpful tool to better one’s mental health. There is a tendency to treat therapy as a cure-all for one’s personal problems. This perspective, however, ignores key issues with therapy: it’s inaccessible to most and it can’t help individuals affected by larger systemic problems.
For one, there’s no denying that therapy is costly. While the Affordable Care Act does require that insurance plans provide coverage for mental health care, it is important to note that not all therapists accept insurance. While 89% of other medical professionals accept insurance, only around 55% of psychiatrists do. Even when insurance does cover therapy, a co-pay is often charged for every visit, which can make it hard for someone to visit as often as they need to. This often forces people to conduct cost-effective analyses on therapy instead of being able to get the help they need.
It should also be acknowledged that not every problem can be solved by therapy. There is no denying the psychological impact caused by larger structural forces, such as poverty and racism, but the mental health issues caused by these problems are not something that can be resolved simply by going to therapy. Mental health treatment is only a part of the equation in helping people. Therapy cannot solve systemic issues. That is one of the problems with the constant “go to therapy” refrain. Therapy rarely acknowledges the societal causes of one’s trauma.
There is also growing support for the idea that therapy can help stop abusers, however, this is a long and difficult process that does not always happen. This comes from data that shows people who were abused often grow up to be abusers themselves. Therapy, then, could help break the cycle of abuse. This can involve confronting several things about oneself that they’d rather be in denial about. As a result, if people don’t come to therapy willing to change, it’s not going to benefit them very much. For most abusers one of the most common causes of domestic violence is control, power and dominance over another person through violence. Most abusers, no matter how much rehabilitation and therapy they go through, don’t want to give up that control and are unsuccessful in this journey.
There is no denying that therapy is a helpful tool and it is good that more people are comfortable with the idea of going to therapy. But therapy continues to be inaccessible to a vast majority of people due to the costs and cultural stigmas. It is also treated as a band-aid for society’s larger problems and is an ineffective tool for abuser rehabilitation. For these reasons, therapy should not be celebrated as something that can fix all of the problems plaguing people in society today.