Many people are held back from seeking help from a mental health professional because they hold certain common misconceptions about therapy. In such instances, these myths and misunderstandings can prevent people from improving the way they feel and their quality of life, and they can even do serious harm.
So, we’d like to clear up some of these common misconceptions about therapy and put the truth out there. Hopefully, this will encourage more people to seek counseling from a mental health professional as they better understand the process.
Common Myths and Misunderstandings About Therapy
- Myth: Therapy is for the weak or crazy. These ideas relate to an old stigma attached to mental health counseling. In fact, those who seek help when they can potentially benefit from it are strong and resourceful. And the truth is, most people struggle at times with issues that therapy can help with.
- Myth: You only benefit from therapy if you have “serious” problems. First, “serious” is a highly subjective term. But in reality, therapy can help with ongoing matters like stress management and anxiety, effectively tackling little problems that arise in daily life, improving your relationships, building confidence and self-esteem, accomplishing goals, dealing with grief, and a lot more.
- Myth: You don’t need therapy when you have friends or family to talk to. You can’t get the same things from talking to loved ones that you can get from talking to a mental health professional. While talking to loved ones is a great form of support, the objectivity and training of a therapist are invaluable. Also, people have certain limits on how they talk to people they know, whether they realize it or not; you can open up in different ways with someone who’s not directly part of your life.
- Myth: You have to lie down on a couch while the therapist takes notes behind a desk. This isn’t a typical setup for a therapy session at all. The physical positioning of the patient and the therapist matters. Usually, the two are both seated in comfortable chairs, facing each other, without a significant obstruction between them. And good therapists try to keep note-taking to a minimum until after the session.
- Myth: Therapy just involves a lot of talk on the part of the patient. Therapy isn’t a passive process. Yes, the patient ideally talks a lot. But the mental health professional also talks, and doesn’t just resort to the cliché, “And how does that make you feel?” Therapy should involve meaningful conversations, and the discussion should prompt deeper thought and new actions.
- Myth: Therapists have canned answers for problems. There’s nothing one-size-fits-all about therapy. While many issues can be approached in a generally similar way, each person’s situation, relationships, personal strengths and weaknesses, and so on are unique. That means everyone has to meet their particular challenges in a unique way, using personalized, informed advice from their therapist.
- Myth: Therapists just blame your parents and upbringing. While parents and their parenting methods can certainly leave their marks on their children, this is another cliché and one of the most common misconceptions about therapy. Good therapists don’t want to “blame” anyone, but rather want to help their patients understand the roots of their struggles. And taking personal responsibility is important.
- Myth: Therapy solves problems quickly, or with “aha!” moments. Therapy is an ongoing process that takes time, yielding results gradually. While effective therapy can definitely lead to some epiphanies, nobody is suddenly “fixed” by some grand realization.
- Myth: Once you start, you have to go to therapy forever. Some patients and conditions require ongoing treatment. But for most people, therapy is a finite undertaking. Many people attend 10 to 20 sessions, make significant progress in the areas they addressed, and stop going. Others go for several months, or even several years. It’s different for everyone, of course.