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Why do so many people in the US seek out therapy?

As many of you know I am a Canadian. Living here in rural Alberta and in the past living in the cities here, the only people I knew who sought out therapy were suffering from a mental illness, suffering from an addiction or getting help with relationship issues. Yet I am constantly hearing Americans talking about talking to they therapists. I am not judging but, why is this practice so common, is it just an impression we get from the media or is it some kind of fad?

HeathenFarmer 8 Jan 10

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In my case it's relationship therapyor no relationship with my mother, whose personality has been changing steadily over the past decade or so, and whose emotional volitility, poormemory, impulse control, and responsiveness to social cues makes it nearly impossible for her to treat me with the respect I need to maintain contact with someone. I'm sure it's a form of early dementia. My mother's gone. Now there is an awful changeling in her place who's holding me hostage emotionally. And we're supposed to have a nice relationship. It's hard.

Here we have Dementia support groups funded by the Alzheimer's Society and Alberta Health they give people support and information at no cost they help people cope through regular meeting at the long term care centre where the family members lives but, are open to anyone. It is very tough to deal with those changes in a loved one, I have heard you words from others before these groups help people like you a lot through shared experience you learn that you are not alone with your problems.


We are working with incomplete information, here. Many people seek therapy but don't talk about it. I didn't for years. I'm not sure where you are "constantly" hearing about it, HeathenFarmer, but if you're getting it from the news or the talk shows you should probably discount a lot of it. Therapy is not for blasting all over TV or magazines. OTOH, I I know quite a few people who probably should be getting therapy but would never dream of it.


Many of us have gone to therapy at times for various reasons: dysfuntional families may be the common denominator.

Americans do not have a monopoly on dysfunctional families most families have at least a small component of this everywhere.


have you seen how people behave here?
You'd need therapy too!

I might but I doubt it I cope very well to nearly everything. Why, is the question, do you(Americans) fear how other behave?

@HeathenFarmer because there is a real fear, in this land of the free, that they will actually kill us


Interesting question. An observation of mine comes to mind. Years ago I noticed the increase in attendance from upper crust young women to AA meetings just after the movie “When a Man Loves a Woman” came out. We’re they seeking help or just Meg Ryan wanna be’s?

So, you feel there is a fad component then?

@HeathenFarmer yes - somewhat


Media is not very truthful. There are people with problems the usual one is money or relationships. Some fall in the abused category. Think divorce rate is high because people get bored with each other.

Divorce could also be higher for other reasons; marriage for the wrong reason, lack of education in adult realities or religious pressure to be wed before being bed.


I think it is more of a media impression. Psychiatry was one of the specialties was one of the first most affected by managed care. Coverage is biased more toward treatment with medication and the number of therapy sessions are limited and have to be justified one by one at times. People who can pay out of pocket can have unlimited therapy sessions but I think you can imagine that group would be limited.

The fact that most of the basis (not all of it) for my observations comes from the media which is dominated by people with money; this could be skewing my observations as to how common it is but, why are all those people with money so screwed up? It is also, statically verifiable that the use and subscribing of antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs is far higher despite the fact that all Canadian have medical coverage.

@HeathenFarmer because the emphasis is to look for a magic pill

@btroje , I have though about that desire to find the quick external fix for an internal problem. It seems very odd to me that this would be the case in a nation that value rugged individualism over compromise and cooperation. Is this very philosophy at the root of the isolation and fear Americans feel making them seek council to cope?

I am not sure we are having the same discussion here and don't want to make sweeping generalizations about "American philosophy" and portrayals of any country by media/entertainment representation.Insurance reimbursement and pharmaceutical companies have a major effect in shaping choices here in the US though. I can not speak to individual choice as I havent met all of them 🙂


Its ancient. Freud was invited to the US. The US has had a history of using therapists more than most countries back to the beginning of the field. From what I understand Brazil beats the US in number of therapists per capita.

As has been pointed out in America the biggest section of any bookstore is self-help.


I am not sure that a high percentage of Americans seek psychotherapy. I am 80 years old and have never been in psychotherapy and do not know of anyone among my friends, associates, and colleagues who has.


I attend therapy on a twice monthly basis to help me deal with obsessive compulsive disorder that had gotten so bad it prevented me from driving. It's helped me immensely to be able to describe my frustrating and helpless emotions when I lose control of a situation. Addressing them out loud and in a safe nonjudgmental atmosphere helps me deal with all the stress.


The entire country is under mind control. Your best Doctor is you, along with your friends and family. Don't allow The Government be your parents and stop this delusional they representative your freedom, they don't.

Because they and their real owners don't give a care or flying fuck about you.

My artist daughter asked me if she should go a phycologist. Why? Take pot if your over stressed out. These legal drug dealer doctors will kill you far greater than the illegal drugs will.

I can say that about cops, doctor, teachers and so on. It is not the person, it is the system they are under, that dictates what they do. Everybody hands are tied because the system is broken and as they threw us overboard 40years ago.

My daughter and I are better off the system as much as possible. I can grow all the medicine I need in my backyard. My family or friends remind me if I am getting too fat, Who needs a doctor for that. Do use some of their machine and advice, then get other options on my health.


There's a lot of sick people out there that have anxiety issues, bi polar, scysophenia, and various types of depression and don't know they have because they live in a dysfunctional family. Like saying shut up is normal for them. Punching a parent is normal. People have high expectations and illness makes them shut down. It's a big business in the U.S.A. I suppose having to much opportunity and freedom gets the best of those that think not having a cell phone means your a failure.

Do you think the anxiety caused by living at a high level of fear plays into it? Fear of failure, fear of getting sick, fear of losing your health insurance, fear of your neighbour, etc. things we we don't have here in Canada could that be more of a reason because Canadian have high and sometimes unreal expectations and dysfunctional families as well.

@HeathenFarmer. Oh yes... fear. That's a lot of it. Money and possessions and big houses and social status causes social anxiety in some people. 70 thousand dollar trucks. 300 thousand dollar homes. You can't get this with 30 dollar an hour jobs. There's that other neighborhood they have to live in and their kids go to the school in that area. Kids get stuck in that environment and think along that scale of opportunity. No money for college. Hmmm... It's a circle some people can't seem to get out of.


Part of it is an increased isolation in this country. Connected to that is an ever increasing competitiveness that I believe has been pushed on us by out of control capitalism. Marketing usually plays on people's insecurities, and this is going to damage one's feelings of self worth.. When everybody is seen as competition it is obvious that would lead to one feeling isolated.

Good answer it sums up what others have said. I wonder though how much fear plays into it because that is one of the main differences between Canadians and Americans the amount of fear we have.

An interesting read:

@HeathenFarmer good point. Fear is a factor for sure. With many of my clients it is a great fear of the future, and fear of not being good enough. There has been such a focus on external success and no focus on personal growth, and I believe that has come with a cost. It is why one of our countries nick names is "Prozac Nation". I think that is why more of us therapists are turning to Mindfulness Therapy, to try and counter the ever increasing trend of this country to ignore individual self growth and self understanding. One need not look any further than our current political climate.

@Hope4Zoe I read the entire book review. There is a lot there. I can't say there is not a fair amount of truth in Cohen's concerns. I remember when I was working on my counseling degree, one of my friends who was as intelligent as he was a pain in the ass, argued with me that my job as a therapist would be to help keep people following societal norms. That was thirty years ago. To this day I remember that discussion and try to prove him wrong. It is easier to do when working with "voluntary clients".....That could be a very long conversation.


Because many Americans are dingbats.

...that is not very deep! 'Dingbats' doesn't sound like a disorder! Have you ever gotten therapy?

Ok I can understand why an Englishman might develop that opinion but why are they dingbats?

Because many Americans are hurting and/or have been significantly impacted by the recent wars (those who went and their families) plus the economic crisis that caused many people to lose their homes. Please don't stigmatize those who seek therapy. The brain is an organ, too.

Guess what?

In Europe people fought wars. German bombs dropped on London. On Manchester. On Sheffield. On Dover. On Cardiff. On Birmingham.

Outside Britain, German bombs dropped on Paris. On Amsterdam. On Moscow.

The people of St. Petersburg (then Lenningrad) suffered starvation during a siege lasting years, in temperatures 30 degrees below freezing.

The people of Poland saw their homeland ripped away, as did the people of France.

It's not just Americans who know war.

Neither is it just Americans who know poverty. Economic pain. Injustice. Who lose their homes, and their jobs, and their hope.

But it IS Americans who are addicted to therapy. Americans respond to the same pressures, the same sorrows, the same challenges - but do so in a very different way.

America has an 'addiction to therapy' in the same way it has an addiction to god, and to guns. And sorry - that is, in itself, a symptom of something fundamentally wrong.

So yes - I will withdraw the word 'dingbat'. It was insensitive.

Americans seek out therapy, partly because they need it - but to a large extent because 'going to the therapist' is part of American 'cultural fashion'.

If you want therapy, go and get therapy @zeliasgrand - but for many within American culture it is fashion and entertainment, not need.


It is not a fad...not in my case! And, I am surprised to find someone say that they hear a lot of people are getting therapy. Also, 'physical therapy' is therapy! In my particular area of Ga...I rarely hear anyone say they are in therapy. I had many years of psychological therapy, due to depression. I am mostly free of depression now. My religious upbringing may have been a big factor in my depression. The evangelicals and a lot of religious people use their religion as their therapy. But, it did not fit me. It took a lot of therapy to weed out the damage that it created in my nature.

I did not mean physical therapy that is a medical treatment. As I said earlier in my replies to the comments on this post, there is no reason to believe that the rate of mental illness id higher in the US than Canada. Clinical depression is a mental illness I am glad to hear you are now coping much better. Is there a correlation between the large amount of evangelical christians and the rate of depression and/or the need for therapy? Could make an interesting study.


I see a therapist, because I’m fucked up. 🙂

Seriously though, I’ve got mental issues that make normal life hard for me. I need someone to help me develop tools to help myself.

I wouldn’t call it a fad, but I do see that it’s become more normalized to seek out help, over the last forty years.

I hope you find those tools and get well.


My opinion is if you have any real intelligence at all, if you can think critically at all, if you value integrity at all this place slaps you in the face every goddamn day. A little therapy (or a little something) helps. Plus, living in the certain cities in the United States can be a real rat race and suck the joy right out of life.

Wow, I am a little taken back by your last statement as I have never heard that about living in the largest Canadian cities the rat race part yes, but not the suck the life out of you.


Depression, stress-related problems, and financial security. Society has changed rapidly over the last few years and keeping up the changes and the demands are proving difficult for many.

Betty Level 7 Jan 10, 2018

I don't by the society is changing rapidly argument it is changing just as fast here but, financial insecurity maybe a lot worse for many in the US. Does your private insurance usually cover therapy?


Changes in societal norms were once generational now the changes are within a generation. For example...verbal abuse now has a wider definition. In the workplace, you are teaching a simple three-step function and after repeating several times the person still gets it wrong and out of frustration you say something like...For F's sake, it's not rocket science. That person can accuse you of verbal abuse. Ten years ago that would not have been an issue.
Here is one that happened a couple of years ago...A father bought a phone for his 14-year-old daughter with the condition that it was not to be used after bedtime. 3 in the morning he catches her on social media and takes the phone from her, she grabs for it and the phone is dropped on the floor and the cover pops off. She calls the police to report her father and he is charged with abuse.
Here is another that I saw several years back...An accident victim is brought to emergency and the husband arrives distressed demanding answers. The nurse calls security and has the man escorted out of the hospital accusing him of verbal abuse instead of calming a worried and fearful husband.
In just the last few months complimenting a woman on her looks has changed from a pleasantry to sexual harassment.
We could get into GMO's, growth hormones, and antibiotics in animals. Once promoted as progress and now not.

What I'm saying is that these changes in what society will and will not accept have been more frequent in this generation than in previous. There are so many more examples and this post is too long as it is.

@Betty , I don't disagree about the rapidity of change but, it is no different here, it may actually be worse. The one difference I can identify is the level of fear Americans live under of the changes and the consequences of them.

@meteorshower , may I point out that most caves already have resident bears, snakes and other things you may not want to find in your bed, a cabin is probably a better choice.


I agree that is similar here and the increase of mental health awareness and the programs that have been implemented is a testament to it. In Canada, I think we have done more to help so there are more options and our health care is better than the States.


Humans can be very complicated. Sometimes that's not a good thing.

@meteorshower , I can understand that with animals the rules are a lot simpler, humans can be frustratingly complicated attires they often have hidden agendas, emotional baggage and strange beliefs and thought patterns that make them far harder to deal with than bears. It is a challenging endeavour to deal with them but, I have never been one to back down from a challenge but, I am always glad that I have my farm to retreat to when I need to.


A good sanctuary that allows you to decompress is a wonderful way to maintain your sanity. I agree with your assessment of emotional baggage, strange beliefs, and thought patterns. They can make something simple into a very complicated issue that boggles the intellectual mind.

@Betty , it does the trick though is not to let it beat you.


That's why a sanctuary is so important, like your cabin, this site, or a hobby etc. It helps to clear the mind of all the BS and regain focus.


Hard to answer question but "depression" is like the standard issue mental illness in america.

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