There are various myths about therapy and therapists, mostly perpetuated by TV and movies, but we are going to set some of these straight today!
1. Going to therapy means I'm crazy!
Going to therapy certainly doesn't mean you are crazy, and this is the most common reason that people use to not go to therapy. There is nothing wrong with going to therapy at all. Sometimes you just might have a big decision to make, other times you might want to explore different options, different ways of thinking, or have someone unbiased to discuss things with.
A counsellor is like a personal trainer for your mind, you wouldn't begrudge someone seeing a personal trainer to work on their physical fitness, so why begrudge someone going to therapy to work on their mental fitness?
2. I can just talk to a friend or family member
You can indeed talk to friends and family members about what is on your mind, but anyone who is in your life in any way will have a biased opinion; they care about you, they care about the person that you are talking about, they are invested in your decisions (e.g. your colleague who doesn't want you to change jobs or your boyfriend who wants to spend every second with you). I'm not saying that they are bad or wrong - they love you - but sometimes you need an unbiased, professional person.
3. Therapists just sit there
This is probably the biggest myth that has been perpetuated by Hollywood. In movies, therapists sit there and play noughts and crosses on their clipboards while the client is pouring their hearts out. In real life, this is not the case.
Throughout the course of your therapy, but especially when you first meet your therapist, you will be able to discuss what you want to get out of going to therapy, what you believe will enhance your treatment, and you can expect to have regular reviews with your counsellor to discuss how the therapy is going and if changes are needed. Some therapists will be more passive while others will be more direct, some will focus more on the past while others will focus more on the present. Many therapists will be able to tailor this to your and what you need - and this may change over time.
Therapists are well-trained and will be able to tailor their approach to your needs.
4. Everyone will know I'm in therapy
Therapists and anyone who works in the therapist's office (receptionists etc.) are bound by confidentiality policies, and so will not divulge to anyone that you are in therapy. There will be exceptions to this, which you can expect your counsellor to discuss with you in your first appointment, such as if they are concerned about your wellbeing they may contact your GP, however they will not be discussing you or any other clients over drinks on a Friday night!
The only people who will know that you are in therapy will be those that you chose to tell. There is definitely less stigma around mental health and seeking out therapy nowadays - there is no shame in seeing a therapist - but this information will not come from your counsellor.
5. Therapy could make me feel worse
This is a risk that clients take when they enter into therapy - sometimes opening up painful memories can cause upset in the short-term. However, it is up to you and the therapist to manage this process. When you enter into therapy, you are not obliged to jump straight into the painful stuff straightaway - you can build up a relationship with your counsellor, build some resilience and healthy coping strategies and so on before delving deeper into the work.
This fear that therapy will make clients feel worse can cause some clients to shy away from therapy altogether and can cause others to omit things, lie, or downplay things in therapy. This is done out of a fear of being judged by the therapist or of stirring up emotional pain. Therapists listen non-judgementally to stories of trauma, regret, shame, and pain and are well prepared to stay with you through these experiences - the therapist will not judge you, they won't leave you, and they won't try to patch over this pain. The therapist will stay with you in the darkness, helping you to find your way out.
6. All therapy is the same
While there are many familiar aspects of therapy (i.e. how the contracts work, confidentiality, settings, non-judgemental listening, and so on) therapy varies from one counsellor to another and from one session to another. As I've mentioned in other articles, there are as many types of therapy as there are therapists in the world. Therapists will train in a certain modality but then once they are qualified, they will continue to go to training events, workshops, and courses, they might also specialise and see a certain type of client, and their personality will also become infused in the way that they work.
Through a course of therapy, it is expected that the client will change and grow, especially in longer-term counselling, and therefore the therapist will change the way that they are working with you in order to accommodate this growth. Even in short-term counselling, the way that the therapist works with you in the first few sessions might change and develop as the relationship builds; the therapist might challenge you more, they might question certain things, and so on whereas they might not have done this when they were still getting to know you.
Did you have any questions about how therapy works? Ask me on the 'Appointments' page.
As always, if you would like to book an initial counselling session with me, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the Appointments tab in the menu.