Why is / was there a stigma against psychotherapy?

Nowadays, it’s more accepted and even encouraged to see a therapist, especially in the US. But there is still some left of the old stigma against therapy.

Where does that stigma or skepticism come from?

Some early therapists – in the 1800s and early 1900s – had a more cynical view on humans. This colored people’s perception of therapy in general, and it’s something many of us instinctually want to avoid.

We may have a cynical view on humans and reality. We may think that uncovering and getting close to reality will only confirm that we and/or reality is bad. We don’t trust human nature and reality.

We know we may not get a good or compatible therapist, and a bad therapist is worse than nothing. It can make things worse.

We may see it as only dealing with problems and challenges, and not (also) helping us to thrive and function better in daily life with more joy, sense of meaning, and passion.

We may know or suspect that being honest about our feelings, thoughts, and knowing may require us to act on it and make changes in our life, and we may be scared of making those changes.

All of these reasons are valid and understandable. I know each of these from myself. I instinctually recoil from some of the worldviews and views of humans found in early psychology. I used to have a lack of trust in that uncovering and getting close to reality would be good. I have experience with bad and incompatible therapists and have learned to be more discerning. Some therapists do deal mostly with problems and not helping people thrive. And I have been scared of acting on my own knowing, and have had a counselor who brought me face-to-face with it in an unavoidable way (for which I am grateful).

Why has it changed? Perhaps largely because therapy has changed. There is a more life-affirming view on humans and reality in most contemporary psychology and therapy.

Note: I chose to use imprecise words like good and bad here since this is about perception and often very innocent and childlike perceptions and reactions.

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