Don’t tell me to “go to therapy”

It’s rude, inconsiderate, and pathologizing

illustrated speech bubble saying “you need therapy”
ILLUSTRATION: Angela Shen / The Peak

By: C Icart, Staff Writer

These days, telling someone to “get therapy” or “get help” is such a common read. But even when said with good intentions, saying this to someone unprompted is kind of rude. Don’t get me wrong, the openness with which Gen Z talks about mental health and therapy is a good thing. It contributes to destigmatizing these topics. However, it’s also led to some disturbing trends. 

Somewhere in the sea of jokes and memes about men needing therapy, we lost our way. Now, it seems like instead of just appreciating when therapy works for us or people we know, we are now judging those who don’t go to therapy. For instance, “on dating apps, being in therapy can vouch for your emotional soundness, while not being in therapy may be considered a red flag.”

You have no idea what someone’s circumstances are. On top of being condescending, you might be recommending an option that is inaccessible to some because of its cost. Others may be avoiding therapy because of its stigma. However you look at it, therapy is a privilege. 

Finding the right therapist for you can be a challenge as well. If you’re already down and struggling, “shopping” for a therapist can seem like a pretty daunting task. The times in my life where I could barely brush my teeth are not the times I wanted to spend hours searching for a therapist that was going to make me feel safe as a Black, queer, and trans person. I needed someone that I’d mesh well with, whose practice meets my needs, whose price works within my budget, and whose waitlist wasn’t a mile long. Jumping through all those hoops to end up seeing someone who isn’t a good fit is a pretty demoralizing experience. Personally, some therapists I’ve had in my teenage years have said some stigmatizing and alienating things to me, and it’s part of the reason I haven’t gone back. 

On top of that, therapy isn’t the only way to work on your mental health. Assuming that you are doing more internal work than others, or that your mental health is better than someone because you go to therapy and they don’t — is misguided. Exercise, art, journalling, self care, self-help books, and support from friends and family are possible alternatives

Writer Julladonna Park highlights how telling someone to “get help” pathologizes them as well. “Nobody is entitled to an upfront explanation of these complex and intersectional reasons for avoiding therapy,” Park writes. 

Are you using the phrase “get therapy” to insinuate that someone is “crazy” or “sick?” Are you doing it to discredit them? That’s not okay. Everyone’s needs, resources, capacity, and lived experiences are different. Therapy (and as a reminder there are many kinds, not just “traditional” talk therapy) is meant to be a tool to help people improve their health, so it’s time we stop using the term in such toxic ways.