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Results from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicate a steady increase in adults who received therapy or counseling since 2002. As of 2020, 41.4 million adults in the U.S. have received some form of mental health treatment. Unfortunately, while that number is encouraging and a significant positive growth, a closer look indicates that certain groups are being left behind. The idea that pro-therapy culture has gone too far indicates that it has done its job and more when it hasn’t. The usefulness of therapy can’t and shouldn’t be written off simply because it’s inaccessible, in fact that’s exactly why emphasizing the effectiveness of mental health treatment is so important.

The survey points out that these patients are overwhelmingly women and are overwhelmingly white. In 2020, approximately 24.4% of white adults received therapy or counseling in the past year while the number of Latine patients was about half of that number. The fact that patients are mostly women is an issue as well when men make up almost 80% of suicides in the U.S. despite making up less than 50% of the population. 

It cannot be declared that therapy has been successfully destigmatized when the needs of these individuals are not being addressed. Stigmas within different cultures remain difficult to deconstruct and unfair standards of masculinity continue to dehumanize men. This isn’t to say that these people having access to therapy would solve everything, but it remains an effective treatment supported by significant evidence and people should be able to make that healthcare decision without outside pressures. Mental health treatment remains an important part of the equation in addressing larger institutional issues even though it is not the complete answer.

Despite women being a large percentage of all patients, not enough women who need some form of mental health treatment feel that it is a viable or acceptable option. It’s clear that mental health treatment needs are not being met as over 93% of American women over the age of 12 asserted that they received no form of mental health treatment in 2020 despite experiencing substance use disorder. About 57% of women who experienced a major depressive episode received no treatment either.

Mental health treatment still remains widely inaccessible to many for a multitude of reasons in addition to the stigma associated with it. Over 40% of American adults claimed that the cost was a determining factor in whether or not they got treatment. About 30% said they didn’t know where to go to access these services. Pro-therapy ideas and movements are what demand progress from insurance companies and politicians, even if it is not nearly enough yet. Backing off of parroting the importance of therapy now would be a mistake.

For those going to therapy only because they feel they should, it doesn’t have to be pointless. There’s no rule that says you have to stop at therapy and that there are no other options that address community or cultural issues. Therapy can be a great starting point for setting goals and a good place to find direction for your mental health with the help of a trained professional. It can also be about finding what methods work for you in handling things like everyday stress and anxiety. 

Therapists who are frustrated and feel their patients don’t start with clear goals for themselves should know that there is evidence indicating regular progress reports for patient growth can help prevent a worsening mental state while in therapy. Pointing out what they’re seeing in their patient might help the patient identify what they want to work on, especially if they’re already present and open to that guidance. Therapy should be a safe space where it’s okay to not know what to say or what to do and to be unsure.

People shouldn’t discount the importance of pro-therapy culture and how it has driven improvement in mental healthcare. Access to therapy is structured as a privilege and it shouldn’t be. Forcing this issue and having a strong position might be the best way to aid people who really need healthcare. Popular opinion still counts for something and its weight needs to be put behind growing mental health access.