In this podcast (episode #548) and blog, I talk about what happens when we develop an overreliance on therapy, and how this can potentially affect our ability to work on our coping skills and self-reliance.
I am not saying to stop therapy. It can be an incredibly helpful mental health resource, as I have mentioned multiple times in my podcasts and blogs. However, like all things in life, it is important to stress the need for balance, especially when we come to rely on therapy as our only coping mechanism instead of using therapy to develop self-regulation and self-reliance, or what many refer to as an “internal locus of control”. In other words, therapy is a great source of external support to help us increase our self-reliance as we learn, grow and heal; it is not something that replaces this need for an internal locus of control.
One of the best books I have read on this topic is called One Nation Under Therapy by Christina Hoff Sommers and Sally Satel. They do a great job outlining what happens when we use therapy to replace our need to develop our own coping skills and mechanisms. They also highlight the fact that therapy is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and discuss in detail what happens when we develop an overreliance on therapy and experts.
When it comes to therapy, there are some important factors we all need to consider, as Satel and Sommers also talk about in their book:
- Personal responsibility: We should take an active role in managing our own well-being. While therapy can be a valuable tool, it's essential to recognize that personal accountability, self-care, and self-help strategies play a crucial role in our overall mental health.
- Diverse approaches: Therapy is just one approach to addressing mental health issues. Many people can benefit from other methods such as self-help books, support groups, exercise, and mindfulness practices. The choice of approach should be based on your unique needs and preferences.
- Self-exploration: It's important to engage in self-exploration and reflection. Understanding your own emotions, thoughts, and behaviors can lead to insights and personal growth that don't always require professional intervention.
- Overmedicalization: Overreliance on therapy and experts can contribute to the overmedicalization of normal human experiences. Not all emotional distress or life challenges require clinical intervention; some can be addressed through social support and lifestyle changes. There can be a toxic effect of counseling and therapy where people who don’t have a mental illness or “broken brain” start to believe they do; they are having a normal reaction and response to an adverse experience.
- Cost and accessibility: Not everyone has access to therapy due to financial or geographical limitations. Relying solely on therapy may exclude those who can't afford it or live in areas with limited mental health resources.
- Holistic wellbeing: Mental health is closely connected to physical health, lifestyle choices, and social connections. Relying exclusively on therapy may neglect the importance of a holistic approach to wellbeing.
- Client-therapist fit: Therapy success often depends on the quality of the therapeutic relationship. Not all therapists are the right fit for every client. An overreliance on therapy may involve working with a therapist who isn't the best match for your needs.
- Stigmatization: Overreliance on therapy and experts may contribute to the stigmatization of normal human struggles and emotions. It can create a perception that seeking help is a sign of weakness, which is not the case.
- Cultural shifts: In many cases, society has moved away from relying on the community to focusing on the individual. This shift has impacted one of our most basic needs as humans: we need each other and we need to talk to each other. Therapy certainly provides that role, but it should be a support, not a replacement for community.
Here are some signs that you may be over-relying on therapy:
- If you feel like you are not improving mentally or physically, and just seem to be going around in circles or even feeling worse off than before. This will of course be different for everyone, as some people are trying to process through extreme and complex traumas.
- If you feel less independent or empowered to face your issues. As we gain increased autonomy by taking control of our mental health, we should become more aware of both our issues and our capacity to deal with the toxic thoughts and control toxic stress. When we change our perspective, we learn to see opportunities instead of barriers. This process leads us to become more empowered so we can control our lives by controlling our minds.
- If you feel the need for your therapist to “fix” you.
- If you are heavily reliant on your therapist to make decisions for you.
- If you’ve been in therapy a while and have accomplished many, if not all, of your therapy goals, but are afraid to stop therapy.
If you feel this is you, don’t panic! Therapy and experts can be valuable resources for addressing mental health issues, but they should be considered as part of a broader strategy for wellbeing. The great news is that it is never too late to start learning and developing your self-reliance. The key thing to remember is that it's essential to strike a balance between seeking professional help when needed and developing your personal resilience, self-awareness, and self-care strategies.
Of course, each person's journey to mental wellbeing is incredibly unique, and yours may involve a combination of approaches tailored to your individual circumstances and needs. Be open to exploring different mental health approaches, and try to be adaptable. Sometimes, what you needed yesterday is not the same as what you may need today. This is what I did in my own practice in South Africa, and why I have dedicated the past 38 years to understanding how we as humans can understand our mind and develop our self-reliance and self-regulation and deal with the challenges of life (from the minor day-to-day struggles to the bad habits we develop and the traumas we experience). This is the foundation of my 5-step Neurocycle mind management method I discuss in my blogs and podcasts, and current research.
And remember, the more we learn how to manage our minds, the more insight we will have into when and what supportive help we need, so trust yourself and what you need—you are amazing!
For more on therapy, listen to my podcast (episode #548). If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing. And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media. (Don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).
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2:02 What happens when we develop an overreliance on therapy
8:00, 17:07 The dangers of medicalizing misery
11:20 Why we need to develop our self-reliance & personal responsibility
13:15 There are many forms of mental self-care & tools for healing
15:08 The power of self-exploration
19:40 Not everyone can access therapy!
23:30 How an over-reliance on therapy can stigmatize normal human emotions
25:18 Mental health, autonomy & empowerment
This podcast and blog are for educational purposes only and are not intended as medical advice. We always encourage each person to make the decision that seems best for their situation with the guidance of a medical professional.