Psychotherapy is a Stigmatized Topic
The persistence of misinformation about psychotherapy keeps people from seeking and receiving help. So, here we are to debunk a few myths about therapy!
This list is by no means exhaustive, but these myths tend to be the most common:
Myth # 1: Therapy is for people with “serious” problems.
Fact: This cringe-worthy statement is probably the most common misconception about therapy. Some people believe that you must be diagnosed with some psychological disorder or experiencing profound distress in your life to seek therapy. This parallels society’s incorrect perception that therapy is for those who lack the ability to think clearly, hold down a steady job, and engage in meaningful relationships. There are many reasons why people seek out therapy; to learn to cope with disease, work stress, or grief, to help with sleep difficulties, to quit smoking, or just the desire to grow and live life to the fullest!
Myth # 2: All therapy is the same.
Fact: There may be a few similarities in the first few sessions (e.g. discussing confidentiality, gathering detailed history about your concerns, etc.), but beyond these basics, therapy can vary widely. There is a myriad of theoretical approaches, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, existential psychotherapy, and psychodynamic therapy. These therapies are very different and even more so depending on the therapist in terms of their application of the interventions. Additionally, some therapeutic approaches are evidenced-based (i.e. backed by research) while others have not been heavily scrutinized by the scientific community. Not all therapy is created equal.
Myth # 3: Just talking about my problems won’t help me.
Fact: You’re partially correct; just talking about your problems may not be helpful. However, talking about your problems is the key to the subtle but powerful art of what is psychotherapy. You may feel like you are just talking, but in that process, the clinician is helping guide the conversation based on your specific goals. Furthermore, many therapeutic approaches require the client (you!) to complete exercises outside of therapy to reinforce the skills learned. So, while it may feel like just talking, there is much more to therapy than meets the eye … or ears!
Myth # 4: They’ll force me to take medication
Fact: There are different types of mental health professionals and chances are if you’re concerned that you will be forced to take medication, you are thinking about psychiatrists. Psychiatrists are medical doctors with specialized training in treating individuals with psychotropic medications. Psychiatrists are not trained in psychotherapy. While medication may be discussed in psychotherapy sessions, you will by no means be forced to take any medications. In some cases, medication may be part of your treatment plan but even then, a conversation about the costs and benefits of psychotropic medication would be discussed before a referral to any psychiatrist is given.
Myth # 5: Therapy is unnecessary when you already have a strong support system.
Fact: While a strong social support system is incredibly beneficial in terms of mental health, it plays a different role than therapy does. Therapists are highly trained professionals who have spent years learning to diagnose and treat people with cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and relational issues. Furthermore, relationships are reciprocal in that both you and the other person go back and forth discussing each other’s issues. But in therapy, the sessions are devoted to you! Lastly, and maybe most importantly, therapy is confidential. Therapists are legally and ethically bound to maintain confidentially (with a few exceptions: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/confidentiality.aspx).
Myth # 6: All therapists do is give advice.
Fact: Skilled therapists will try to avoid giving advice to foster your own self-efficacy to solve problems. This strategy may vary based on the therapist’s training, expertise, and methodology, but therapy is meant to be a collaborative process. A good therapist will help you to problem solve and make decisions for yourself.
Original article written by Dr. Shainna Ali