Therapy isn’t like other doctor’s appointments.
Many people think that therapy is like a medical checkup, Howes said. “They expect to report symptoms and then sit passively as the doctor applies the treatment.”
However, therapy is a collaborative and active process. Howes likens therapy to personal training. A trainer provides their expertise, support and skills, but the goals, sweat and hard work are ultimately up to you, he said.
Therapy is backed by science.
“Most people are not aware that therapy has become very much a science, more and more so over the years,” said Duffy, also author of The Available Parent: Radical Optimism for Raising Teens and Tweens.
“We not only know that therapy can be effective, but we know specifics: what types of therapies are most effective for which disorders, for example.”
Deibler also stressed that “the field of psychology has grown to be a science which manualizes and validates therapies in order to provide the most effective care possible.”
Therapy isn’t an unattainable luxury.
“[Most insurance plans cover mental health treatment and many social services agencies provide counseling on a sliding scale or even pro bono,” Marter said.
You can – and should – let it all hang out.
Some people present their most polished selves in session, said Howes, also author of the blog “In Therapy.” But “while therapy is a professional relationship with a highly trained professional in a professional office -- at professional rates -- it's important that you feel free to casually speak your mind.”
If something about your session bothers you, talk about it. If you normally wouldn’t bring up certain thoughts at home or work, share them with your therapist.
The more honest and forthcoming you are, the more helpful your therapy will be, inside and outside the office. “Your thoughts, feelings, and words are the materials of therapy, so we might as well lay it all out on the table.”
Therapists don’t get tired of your issues.
Many clients have told Howes that they worry their problems bore him. But dealing with problems is the reason he entered psychology.
“That's like imagining a plumber gets tired of leaky pipes. If that's really happening, it's time to find a new line of work.” In fact, rather than being bored, he’s actually intrigued by complex concerns.
“When clients say this, it's usually because they feel bored with their own problems and are tired of discussing them in therapy. That's fine; maybe that will act as motivation for us to tackle the issue.”
You can see a therapist at any time.
You don’t need to wait until you’re experiencing a crisis to seek therapy. “[T]herapy is perhaps most effective when it comprises something deeper than crisis control,” Duffy said.
Marter believes that people can benefit from therapy at various points in their lives. For instance, in early adulthood, therapy can help you explore how your family of origin has shaped your behavior and how you might be recreating those patterns, she said.
Therapy also can help during milestones and major life changes, she said. This includes “pre-marital or pre-baby counseling; after the death of a loved one; [and] during a relationship change or a job transition.”
Duffy believes it’s best to stay in therapy after a crisis subsides, so you can delve into the deeper work.
Having an official end to therapy is key.
We don’t have many good endings in our lives, Howes said. Think breakups, layoffs, divorce and death. However, “Therapy is one relationship that is uniquely equipped to provide a clean, positive ending, if clients and therapists are willing to go there.”
This is known as the termination phase. This is “a session or series of sessions where we discuss how it feels to end, tie up the loose ends of the therapy, reminisce about our time together, discuss life after therapy, and have an exit interview.”
There are many misconceptions about therapy. In reality, therapy is a collaborative process that can help you lead a more fulfilling life. “We all need support…Therapy is something healthy, preventative and proactive,” Marter said.
Tartakovsky, M. (2013). Therapists Spill: What You Didn’t Know About Therapy. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/therapists-spill-what-you-didnt-know-about-therapy/00018163
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Oct 2013
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.