As a psychotherapist, there are very few myths about therapy that I haven’t heard. Today I have decided to set the record straight on a few of my favorites! If I have missed any , feel free to visit our facebook page and post them. I will be happy to debunk them too!
In no particular order, here we go..
Myth # 1 : Therapy takes forever.
While Hollywood would have us believe this myth is accurate, it simply isn’t true. How long therapy takes depends on a variety of factors such as the degree to which someone is struggling and the quality of the therapeutic relationship between therapist and client. I’ve had clients make life changing revelations in first session while others take more time as they delve deeper into the process and themselves. For a look at exactly how the therapeutic process begins and ends check out ‘Thinking About Therapy’.
Myth # 2 : Therapists will always want to blame your parents.
Not so. Unless they are in the session with us, we won’t know any more about your parents than you tell us and it really isn’t our place to judge. That said, since parents (or the adults most present in our early lives) have the most profound impact on us, it is helpful for us to understand your early childhood relationships – including with your parents. These relationships as well as early childhood experiences can often become the lenses through which we can most accurately identify and understand adult behaviour.
Myth # 3 : Talking isn’t going to help.
Silence probably won’t either. Talk therapy and interventions that require a connection with another human the most natural and can be some of the most effective supports available. Human beings are biologically wired to connect with and depend on one another. Our brains and bodies respond to each interaction we have and when those interactions are safe and supportive, over time they can become the foundation of healing. So yes, talking can help!
Myth # 4 : Therapists just want your money, they don’t really care.
If these were ordered from most to least irritating, this one would be at the top. Of course not all therapists are alike, we are human, but for the most part therapist are people who care deeply about others and their world. To decide to devote your life to a holding space for some of the most painful stories and struggles anyone can imagine takes guts, courage and commitment. Therapists who just want your money don’t last – trust me. They don’t last because a client can sniff them out a million miles away. If you find a therapist who you feel just wants your money, call them out. Don’t sit shy, address what is wrong. When you open up the conversation you allow for a deeper understanding and more effective connection with the professional you are seeing.
Myth # 5 : If I start in therapy I will become an emotional wreck!
Ahhhh…. the myth of the floodgate! This myth is rooted in the assumption that if a client starts acknowledging their emotions (likely for the first time) the psychological floodgates will open and they will be overcome by the emotional tsunami. It’s an understandable fear but it won’t happen. Even if things do become emotionally difficult, a therapists job is to help you develop the ability to manage the emotions you feel. If that tsunami does happen to come, we won’t let you drown!
Myth # 6- Therapists are all the same.
Who says this stuff anyways? Nothing could be farther from the truth! Therapists are as unique as…hairstylists. Some are generalists who can practice a variety of therapeutic modalities. Some are specialists who choose to focus their skills in one particular area. Some are more paced and exploratory in their work while others take a more solutions focused direct approach. Every therapist is a combination of their education, experience, personality, and a hundred other factors meaning each one is an individual. People will stick with a hairstylist when any number of factors come together to make that particular stylist a perfect fit… so too can be said for therapists! You just have to find your perfect fit!
Myth # 7 – Therapy is only for the “really messed up!”
No. Not True. False. This myth is one of the most dangerous. There is no doubt that therapy is incredibly helpful for those who are struggling with serious mental health concerns but assuming it is ONLY for this group is backwards. Therapy can teach you how and what you need to take care of your mental health which lowers your risk for serious mental concerns. So why wait until things are really bad to seek help? This is the fuel that feeds the stigma around mental health. Therapy should be, and needs to be, as common as seeing your doctor or dentist for a check up. Therapy is for all problems, big and small. It should be tailored for where you are in your mental health journey and progress as you do! Help Stop the stigma!
Myth # 8 – You are weak if you can’t help yourself.
I used to have a sign in my office that read, “Your mind is no place you should ever walk alone.” It was right. When we are stuck in our own heads it is hard to figure out what we see. We look at everything with biased eyes, emotions and, often, with the same assumptions that caused the problems in the first place. By being at arms length from your situation, a therapist is able to provide a non-biased perspective you can use to explore and overcome the challenges you face. Trying to solve a problem with the same mind that created it can often be a defeating and futile task. Reaching out is not only more effective, its often more energy efficient!
Myth # 9 – A therapist will try to talk me out of medication.
Unless your therapist is an MD, or Psychiatrist with a specific concern or if one of your goals is to stop taking medication- this is unlikely to be the case. Your choice to use or not use psychotropic medication is yours. As a therapist complete their assessment they will want to know how which drugs you are using along with dosage and frequency. If there is a concern for any reason, the therapist is like to discuss his or her concerns and refer you to your general physician for followup. As you and your therapist build your treatment plan you can discuss where and how medication fits into your overall treatment goals.
Myth # 10 – If I go to therapy, there will be a record that may jeopardize work or life.
It is true that therapist will keep notes documenting each session. This helps us to document and monitor your treatment goals and progress throughout therapy. These notes are confidential documents and are not shared with anyone without your written permission. This confidentiality would only be broken in the event of a safety concerns (yours or someone else’s), or by court subpoena.
As with any other topics, some of the things you will hear about therapy just aren’t true. Don’t let myths leave you suffering in silence. If you have questions or want to know more about therapy reach out to a therapist and ask! You can also check out Thinking about Therapy? A Beginners Guide to Seeking Professional Support!