I am often entertained by the ideas that so many people hold to be true about my profession. They actually believe that the way therapists are portrayed in the movies is an accurate view. Now, some of them are portrayed slightly more realistically (think of the psychologist in the Sopranos), and some are portrayed more comically (think Analyze This), but it seems no matter how they are portrayed, they all perpetuate some of the biggest myths about therapy. What is also interesting is how people will use these ideas as reasons to not give therapy a shot. So, during this Mental Health Awareness month, I figured I would confront some of these non-truths in support of ending the stigma of therapy..
Non-truth #1 – My mother is the center of my needing therapy!
I cannot even begin to tell you the number of people who come in and immediately begin blaming mom or put up a defense that they don’t want to spend time talking about her. Just to be clear here, this woman is not the root of all your issues, and if you don’t want to spend your time talking about her, why would I want to know all about her? The majority of clients that I work with are focused on the here and now and are in need of support to push forward in their lives. Unless there is trauma that is keeping someone stuck, we can leave mom alone.
Non-truth #2 – Therapy takes too long.
Many therapists are solution focused and results oriented. I strive to be listed in this category. If you come in ready to do the work, therapy can be a short term process. Honestly, I find the “lifers” to be the clients who come in every session complaining about the same thing; and when confronted by the question, “Did you do the assignment?” their answer is almost always, “No.” Therapy works if you do!
Non-truth #3 – Self-help books are just as effective.
This is one of my favorites. If you ask a group of people how many of them will go to their local bookstore and buy a book on dentistry to fix their toothache, no one raises their hand. However, if you ask about a self-help book, at least 50% will raise their hand. Now, don’t get me wrong; these books are a great tool to use in addition to therapy, but a book will not hold your feet to the fire. A book cannot create a personal plan for you, but a therapist can.
Non-truth #4 – Therapists just sit and listen to you cry and/or complain.
You have obviously seen too many television therapists. Therapy is an active process! If I just sat and listened to my clients cry or complain, I would honestly probably fall asleep. Therapists are very active in creating new perspectives for their clients and refereeing a couple’s session. Therapy should be an energizing event, not a energy draining one.
Non-truth #5 – Just talking about my issues won’t help to resolve them.
Well, this one is actually true… You have to do the work! If your goal is just to verbalize your concerns and issues, you’re probably not ready for change. Nothing changes unless we are open to change and new perspectives.
If you’ve been on the fence about creating change in your life or wondering if therapy if is right for you, I hope this helps to clear up some of the misconceptions and allows you to make a choice for change. Still have a concern? Let me know, I’m here to help!