Did you know that more than 50 million Americans seek the services of Mental Health Professionals each year? Despite the size of that number, there are still some people that hold onto the stigma surrounding the idea of therapy just being for people suffering from a serious mental illness, going through a traumatic experience or dealing with a massive personal crisis.
We work each day to change that stigma, and we see it working, for a multitude of reasons. The benefits of therapy extend past the moments of immediate crisis and can help everyone with simple day to day things, such as working on communication skills, refocusing energy toward positive habits, learning to be more compassionate, acknowledging feelings in a healthy way or gaining new tools to manage conflict.
When we look at the state of the world around us, we see lots of stress, conflict and room for improvement and compassion. That’s where the Mental Health Professionals, including Sex Therapists, can help.
With all of the current negativity surrounding law enforcement, we see an opportunity for education.
Malcolm Gladwell, author of “Blink, writes about the brutal murder of Amadou Diallo, a Black man from Guinea, that took place in the Bronx in the early morning hours of February 4, 1999. In this instance, according to Gladwell, the police decided Diallo was dangerous. Diallo, who was living and working in New York City at the time, was reaching into his pocket to retrieve his wallet when he was shot nineteen times by officers.
Based on in-depth and extensive research interviewing cognitive psychologists and studying data, Gladwell asserts, “Perhaps the most common – and the most important – forms of rapid cognition are the judgments we make and the impressions we form of other people. Every waking minute that we are in the presence of someone, we come up with a constant stream of predictions and inferences about what that person is thinking and feeling” – a concept he refers to as mind reading (just not the Miss Cleo kind). Gladwell acknowledges that “mind-reading failures happen to all of us. They lie at the root of countless arguments, disagreements, misunderstandings and hurt feelings,” but that there are also things we can do to fix that.
Cognitive behavioral therapy helps shift rapid cognition. As humans, we can greatly benefit from examining our own assumptions or preconceived notions and begin to understand the ones we make. In doing this, we hold a key to unlock change and help lessen our own anxieties.
Law enforcement officers are not robots. They’re human beings who experience stressors that most people do not. Offering tools such as mindfulness-based-stress-reduction (MBSR) training, an open line of communication to therapists that can help unpack highly stressful situations, and other types of awareness training can save lives and keep our communities safe. My Sex Therapist colleagues and I agree on the importance of offering support in these ways. Why Sex Therapists? Sex and Couples Therapy is not just about sex. It’s also about equality and empowerment in terms of all genders, race, sexual identity, disability and age, in order to eliminate biases of any kind.
So, where do we begin? We begin with working on removing the stigma around therapy, developing grace and compassion and holding onto the understanding that the process isn’t easy, but definitely worth it because achieving your full potential requires self-knowledge, self-control and patience.