Therapy has come a long way. More people are realizing the benefits of therapy, the field has grown immensely, and stigmas are changing! Yet there are still a LOT of misconceptions when it comes to starting therapy, and that can make people hesitant to start. I want to break down a few of the biggest misconceptions, because therapy can be so helpful! Know the facts, and don’t miss out on therapy because of perceptions that aren’t even real.
1. Your therapist will fix you
This is probably the number one misconception. I meet clients all the time who say something along the lines of “I tried therapy a couple times, but it didn’t work.” Very often, they literally mean 1-2 sessions. They stopped going because it didn’t immediately make them feel better. Unfortunately, I’m not surprised. The issue probably wasn’t that the person had a bad therapist. The problem is that it takes more than 2 sessions to do serious work in therapy… like 99.9% of the time. Typically, your first session is an intake, during which you and the therapist discuss your background, treatment history, goals, diagnoses, and any other information the therapist needs right at the beginning. The second session is typically the first session that is actual therapy, and that is often mainly for building rapport between you and your therapist. If you expect to see a big difference in those first two sessions, don’t, leave and see another therapist thinking it didn’t work, you can often end up in a vicious cycle of starting over several times and never seeing results. This leads to feeling like…
I can’t do therapy
I’m tired of rehashing my story with so many different people
All therapists suck
The most common outcome from this? You simply stop going to treatment. All of this can be avoided by simply hanging in there a little longer.
In addition, therapy takes work, both during and outside of sessions. The average person sees their therapist for an hour a week or even every two weeks. There are A LOT of hours in between sessions, and it’s up to you to work on what was discussed during session during your free time. Did your therapist teach you new coping skills? Practice them. Give you homework? Do it, and when you’re finished, do it again. Did your therapist recommend that you see a specialist or other provider? Make the appointment. They recommend these things for a reason. Now granted, I’ve not met every therapist in the world and I know there are bad eggs in every bunch. But most therapists will not recommend something to you for no reason.
Practice mindfulness on your own. Start exercising. Take your medications. Follow your safety plan. Get enough sleep. If you have a job or school, do your best to go. Therapy works best when it is one of many healthy activities. And it takes work. Sometimes slow, painful, excruciating work. I often tell new clients that it gets worse before it gets better. This is because when you’re in therapy, you start rooting out the stuff that’s causing you problems. That stuff tends to be painful. But therapy is a safe place to face it and move forward. It is often only after that process that you will truly feel better.
2. Therapy is all about discussing your childhood
Some therapists do focus on childhood trauma and family-of-origin kind of stuff. But many have a more integrative approach, and will discuss your childhood only as much as it is relevant to what you want to work on. There are many therapeutic techniques, such as brief therapy and solution-focused therapy, that focus primarily on what’s going on in the here-and-now and the goals you want to meet. In these cases, you may not discuss your childhood at all. Basically, if you’re not sure what direction your therapist typically goes in, it’s best to ask up front about their approach. But certainly don’t let discussing your childhood be a barrier, because it’s often not even an issue.
3. Therapy isn’t affordable
Thankfully, there are many affordable options these days. Many communities have agencies that offer sliding scale and even free services. The best place to start to find these would be looking up your local community mental health center. Online and text therapy are also exploding in popularity due to their convenience and affordability. Talk Space, Better Help, 7 Cups of Tea, and other companies offer significantly discounted rates, plus you can see a therapist from the comfort of your couch… or your car… or a beach…or the subway… or really anywhere.
4. Therapy doesn’t work for introverts. Talking for an hour straight? No thanks.
People process information and emotions differently, no secret there. Yes, traditional talk therapy is basically an hour-long conversation. But if you think that’s the ONLY way to do therapy, you’re missing out! Art, music, equine, animal, experiential, and nature therapy are all really popular right now. These methods can be exceptionally effective, especially for people who have experienced trauma or don’t verbally process well. If chatting for an hour isn’t your thing, try one of these more action-oriented methods.
5. Once I start going to therapy, I never stop. It just goes on for years.
Not true at all! Many counseling centers actually implement a brief-therapy model, meaning that most clients attend fewer than 10 sessions. Yes, you may stay with a therapist for months or even years, and if it’s continually beneficial, why not? But don’t feel like signing up for therapy is like signing your life away. The therapist’s goal is for you to not need them anymore.
the wrap up
Therapy can be a daunting process to begin. If you’re on the fence about it, I hope de-mystifying it a little helps you decide to go for it! Going through therapy has had an incredible impact on countless people, including me, and I can tell you it’s worth trying. If you’ve tried therapy, what else would you want people to know before starting? Do you have further questions? Let us know in the comments!
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