Edie shares this experience with a new client. Now, there are legal reasons a therapist cannot acknowledge a patient in public, but I’ve seen some cases where the extent of this privacy can also be a bit off-putting. The very first therapist I went to actually had two separate doors to the office. You would come in through the waiting area, and you had to leave by the back stairs to ensure that the next patient would not be in the waiting area when you left.
All that sneaking out the back door and down the back stairway didn’t do much to make me feel less stigmatized about therapy. I understand why they had it set up that way. I think they meant well, it just made me feel worse.
“This morning while standing in the front office of the counseling practice where I see clients, a woman came to the window, to fill out paperwork for her intake assessment. She wasn’t scheduled to see me, but exclaimed with delight that she knew me from Facebook and through mutual friends. I assured her that if I happened to see her in a social setting I wouldn’t acknowledge that I had met her face to face in the office. She smiled and said that if she ran into a doctor who might be treating foot problems, it wouldn’t be a big deal, so why do we place such constraints on mental health treatment? She wondered why there is such a stigma attached to seeking treatment in the first place when most people wouldn’t feel embarrassed to see a medical professional if there was a physiological need.”
Like I said, there are laws, and Edie goes on to talk about those. Technically, HIPPA would prevent your podiatrist from acknowledging you too, but we do sort of keep a separate set of social rules around therapy, and that is because of the stigma attached to it.