About 20 percent of Americans receive mental health treatment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which should come as no shock in light of the stressors and challenges of the past few years. A global pandemic, political and economic volatility, systemic injustices, and war abroad have triggered and exacerbated mental health issues for many U.S. adults. A survey from the American Psychological Association reported that the majority of psychologists are seeing increased demand for anxiety and depression treatment, and the number receiving more referrals doubled from 2020 to 2021.
If you are considering seeking therapy—whether it is traditional therapy like cognitive behavioral therapy, a trauma-based therapy like Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), or an alternative therapy, here are some pros and cons to consider.
Pro: It helps people in many cases
As Healthline notes, therapy “encourages open and honest dialogue about issues that cause you distress. Through your relationship with your therapist, you’ll work to identify and understand how these stressors are impacting your life, plus develop strategies to manage the symptoms.” That article also notes that 3 out of every 4 people who try therapy report some sort of benefit from it.
Pro: It can help you deal with issues throughout your life
Therapy can provide people with what Anne Floyd and Rob Winkler, writing on David Hoy’s website, refer to as “life-long coping skills.” As they elaborate, “Coping skills are anything that helps you through difficult times, whether it’s not getting the promotion you deserve, anxiety about driving, or the death of a loved one.”
Pro: It can help you with your relationships
When you go to therapy, much of the focus is often on the way you interact with people. When you work on yourself through therapy, you explore the relationships in your life, how you behave in them, and you can address the goals you might have for how to make those relationships better. Therapy gives you a safe space where you can explore what you’ve said and done in interactions with people who are important to you, and assess if you can apply those lessons to future interactions.
Con: It can be costly
According to the Good Therapy site, it can cost anywhere between $65 to $250 per session to see a therapist, and although some insurance plans might help with those costs, many people end up paying out-of-pocket for this brand of care, and it can quickly add up to be $5,000 a year or more if you’re going to weekly sessions. There’s also a time cost on top of financial costs: Though the pandemic did bring on more remote sessions for therapists and clients looking to stay safe, most people seeing a therapist commute into the therapist’s office sometime during the work day and then commute back at the end. And therapy doesn’t necessarily begin or end on the therapist’s couch: Some therapists may request that you do “homework” between sessions to keep active and engaged in the process.
Con: There are no guarantees
As a number of therapists will tell you, there’s no way of providing any guarantee that the time or emotional work that a person does in therapy sessions will lead to that person’s desired goal. Australian psychotherapist Dr. Philomena Tan is one such person, noting, “While general psychotherapy research demonstrates that over 80% of clients benefit from psychotherapy, no therapeutic modality or therapist can guarantee the specific outcomes for any individual,” before emphasizing the importance of trust and collaboration between a therapist and client, as well as the “level of engagement, commitment and responsiveness of the client” in working toward the desired outcomes.
Con: It comes with risks
The Center for Ethical Practice points out there can be risks on the therapy road. Those include “experiencing uncomfortable feelings, such as sadness, guilt, anxiety, anger, frustration, loneliness and helplessness, because the process of psychotherapy often requires discussing the unpleasant aspects of your life.”
VentSpace is a free app where you can anonymously share your thoughts, feelings and struggles with other users and get supportive feedback. No filters. No judgement. No names.