Therapy Now And Then: How Did Mental Health Care Change Over Time?

15 Aug ‘22
6 min
Arianna Freni
Reviewed by psychologist Madelief Falkmann
psychische gezondheidszorg
Therapy has gone through some major changes over the past decade. Whereas historically referring to a psychologist was perceived as a resource to treat severe mental concerns, today, going on a psychological journey is proving a useful tool for everyone who would like to improve their overall health. 


At long last, after centuries of prejudices and misrepresentation, the concept of ‘mental health’ is finally losing the stigma. How did this amplified awareness develop and how did the role of mental support change in daily life?


Abandoning the stigma 


For a long time, going to therapy used to hold a stigma of being “crazy”. Multiple studies have found that this barrier is often a triggering factor for people’s reluctance to recognise potential issues or seek treatment. 


In fact, the stereotypes that derive from the misconceptions surrounding mental health can have a powerful impact on a person’s willingness to access help, as well as on their healing process. 


Luckily, with increasing acknowledgement and encouragement around the importance of mental well-being, this stigma is on the wane. Today, being ‘healthy’ does not simply refer to the absence of a physical illness, but rather it has a holistic connotation, including both physical and mental aspects. 


It is now widely accepted that investing in mental well-being is crucial for one’s overall happiness. And, as a result, more people are educating themselves and considering preventative care. 


The past decade has also witnessed a widespread shift in the attitude of society as a whole. More and more people are advocating for policies that encourage mental wellness and organisations across the world are investing in services to provide online support and make mental health accessible.


Towards the change


While none of this happened overnight, the pandemic put a spotlight – to a greater extent – on the direct connection between mental and emotional well-being and overall physical health. The post lockdown has marked a turning point in the way people ask for and would like to receive help. 


The silver lining is that this new perspective made the conversation about mental health more acceptable and reduced the often unfair beliefs surrounding any challenge someone might be facing internally. 


In addition, mental health online interventions have proven to be an effective means of prevention for mental well-being. This fresh approach allows many people to gain access to psychological support in a much more flexible and adaptable way than it was before. 


Picture this: it has been a busy day, you ran around the office and attended various intense meetings. You had a quick lunch with colleagues and still have to pick up that present for your friend before the shop closes.  The day has already gone and your to-do list is still pretty long. Before heading back home you have some other chores to do.


When you finally reach your couch, the only thing you would like to do is to carve out a moment for yourself, but the idea of leaving again wears you down. Whatever the reason, speaking with a psychologist in the comforts of your own home via digital communication definitely ​​lowers the barriers to starting your mental health journey.

The role of social media

Within this blooming landscape, social media also played a big part in raising awareness of mental health. Youngsters are more vocal about the need to break prejudices around therapy and encourage anyone in the community to get help. 


A lot of information is now easily available, such as coping mechanisms or self-improvement techniques. Through videos, articles, or podcasts, it is possible to promptly access a full library of psychology-related content that, prior to these times, would have been unreachable for many.


✨ Also interesting to read: How to Build Your Daily Mental Health Toolkit

New perspectives


The growing discussion on the benefits of therapy is gradually steering us in a more enlightened direction to overcome the taboo in favour of growth and improvement. While a combination of countless factors is contributing to this ongoing change, we have identified four main categories that make a true difference:


1. More awareness 


There have been multiple efforts to create more awareness about the different mental health-related concerns and the importance of treating them. Sharing information, spreading knowledge, advocating for mental health rights and encouraging people to identify early signs of discomfort and seek intervention are all means to promote a more positive and proactive attitude.

This awareness helps in creating respectful and honest conversations on mental well-being and thus minimises the prejudices that individuals hold on it. 


2. More accessibility


The widespread digitalisation radically changed the approach to therapy as we knew it. Options such as OpenUp make use of e-health to offer patients the opportunity to get support digitally via video, chat, or phone. This online option expands accessibility to convenient and professional treatment.


Although therapy options are now much more accessible than in the past, we still have a long way ahead. The demand for therapy is growing and we need to keep up to make sure everyone receives the mental support that fits their needs. 


3. More support


Many people are standing up to normalise the discussion about mental challenges and support each other, empathise and feel connected on similar topics. This creates safe spaces – in person and online  –  where every individual can share their experiences, learn new coping strategies and speak up about their concerns, instead of feeling blamed or isolated. As each diverse community must feel safe, recognized and supported, it is, therefore, fundamental to fill as many equity gaps as possible within mental health care.


4. More recognition


Our mind and body are strongly intertwined and like a perfect mechanism, they work together and regulate how we overall feel. In today’s world, this concept is finally being recognised and validated – both inside the healthcare system and outside. In the workplace, for example, mental health awareness has grown as a major topic of interest. 


Many organisations are funding mental health programs to improve employees’ well-being and create an environment where people feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings. 


Society-wise, we are also paying more attention to the words we use and how we use them (e.g., pronouns or trigger words), which in turn is a good practice to show respect and value others’ feelings. 


What the future holds


As digital technology evolves, so does the possibility to deliver ever-improving mental health care. Online coaching, meditation apps, and 1:1 mindfulness sessions with professionals can genuinely contribute to preventing mental health challenges long before a potential crisis occurs. In light of its importance, taking care of your mental health should become as accessible as taking care of your body by going to the gym.


Our takeaway message? The greatest contribution to advancing mental health care – today and in the future – lies in ensuring that everyone has equal and rightful access to it.