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The Unseen Mental Health Challenges High Achievers Face


 By: @ericabassotherapy

It's hopeful to see how much society has progressed in embracing mental health discussions. But as a mental health provider, I still notice gaps in our understanding of accurate mental health information. We can all get better at recognizing signs of mental health struggles and feeling empowered to seek support when needed.

As a licensed psychotherapist and the founder of a modern therapy practice in California, I specialize in helping high-achieving women overcome anxiety, perfectionism, and relationship challenges. Through my work, I’ve realized that even the most successful, high-performing individuals can face hidden inner battles.

Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I’m excited to discuss the common barriers that might keep high-achievers from seeking therapy. If any of these challenges resonate with you, check out my advice as a licensed mental health provider.

Stigma

If you identify as a high-achiever, you might see asking for help as admitting to failure or weakness. This fear of being judged can make you resist therapy, even when you need it.

If this sounds like you, I’d encourage you to challenge the idea that getting support undermines your self-image of being strong, competent, or self-sufficient. As a therapist, I always emphasize that asking for help is smart and takes courage—both strengths that are valuable. As a high-achiever, it's crucial to hold yourself accountable to your goals, and committing to therapy can help you achieve more with less stress.

Time Constraints and Cost

As a high-achiever, life can sometimes feel like a juggling act with all the different roles you play. To keep up, you might prioritize professional goals over personal well-being. Yes, therapy is an investment of time and money, and it might feel like just another item on your to-do list. However, the benefits go far beyond the immediate moment.

If this concern is holding you back from starting therapy, let me offer a different perspective. Think of therapy as the one time slot in your week that isn’t about doing or achieving, but about slowing down and focusing on what you need to feel well and perform your best in the long run. Prioritizing one hour a week for therapy can help you develop new stress-reducing skills and become more efficient with your time.

In terms of cost, make the most of your insurance coverage by finding a therapist within your plan's network. If you have out-of-network mental health benefits, your therapist can provide receipts for reimbursement. Our practice accepts many insurance plans, and our associate therapists offer a sliding scale fee.

Cultural or Familial Beliefs 

In some cultures and families, there can be strong taboos against discussing mental health or seeking professional help. If you were raised with this influence, you might feel pressure to adhere to these beliefs, fearing how your family might react if they knew you were getting professional support. Unfortunately, as a therapist, I often see that lack of support from family or friends who view therapy negatively is a major barrier preventing people from seeking the help they need.

I want everyone to understand that licensed therapists are bound by laws and ethics that protect client confidentiality. This means that no one has the right to know about the treatment you receive unless you choose to share it with them. And if you don’t tell them, they won’t find out. It can be tough to take such a vulnerable step alone, but remember, therapists are here to meet you where you are. A good therapist will create a safe space, helping you understand the therapy process and address any biases you may have about therapy or mental health due to family or cultural influences.

Fear of Being Vulnerable

It might feel challenging to picture yourself opening up about personal matters to a stranger. You've likely been independent and self-sufficient for a long time, so it's normal to wonder how a stranger could understand you or have the skills to help. High-achievers often fall into the trap of thinking they should handle everything on their own, believing their problems aren't as significant as others' because of their success.

As a therapist, I like to honor the strengths of self-reliance and independence and what they have allowed an individual to do. However, just because you've been self-sufficient until now doesn't mean you have to continue to be. The downside to relying too much on yourself is that you can feel isolated and lonely in your experience. In therapy, the fit between therapist and client (rapport) is a main indicator of successful therapy outcomes due to feeling witnessed, heard, and seen in the safety of the therapy container. It definitely can take a few sessions with a therapist or a few different therapists to get the right match, but keep at it because it’s worth it.


Erica Basso is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (114828) practicing statewide in California. She owns a boutique therapy practice committed to helping high-achieving women overcome anxiety, perfectionism, relationship challenges, and more. To work with her or one of her therapists, visit www.ericabassotherapy.com.

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