When clients first set foot in my office, they're often surprised to find a practical, scientifically minded person. Likewise, they may be a bit skeptical of the benefits of therapy, particularly if their notions of therapy come from television and movies. Concerns about what therapy will be like—or what going to therapy means about oneself—deters many folks from seeking the help they need. Here are five myths about therapy that need to die.
Therapists Are Only Interested in Feelings
If you think therapy is a place where you endlessly discuss your feelings, think again. A good therapist will help you find new ways to cope with old feelings, call you out on thinking errors and problematic behaviors, and help you steadily work toward achieving your goals.
Therapy is for Crazy People
In a world where about a quarter of the population struggles with mental illness, no one should use the term “crazy” any more, since it's just a slur for emotional issues. Nevertheless, research consistently shows that most people who pursue therapy are seeking help with everyday stress, not mental illness.
Only Medication Can Treat Mental Illness
Study after study has demonstrated that the single most effective approach to treating mental illness blends therapy and medication.
Therapy is Just Paid Friendship
When you talk to a therapist, you're chatting with a paid and trained listener, not a friend whose job is to agree with you. Therapists will tell you when your thinking is a problem, when your behavior interferes with your relationships, and when you're showing signs of mental illness; friends might not.
Therapists Are Crazy
A popular myth holds that therapists enter mental health to deal with their own issues, and it's true that therapists are just like the rest of us. Some struggle with emotional challenges, and some don't. But one thing is certain: your therapist is a skilled expert in mental health, not someone who wants to solve her own problems by listening to the challenges of others!