So many times, I have cringed at friends or family when they talk about their misconstrued concepts of what therapy is.
Unfortunately, the messages we receive from movies and television do not portray the reality of good therapy, but if you have not participated in therapy yourself, the media may be your only reference point.
Below are six common therapy myths found in movies and TV, debunked.
1. Going to Therapy Means I’m Crazy or Weak
This may be the most common reason I hear as to why people refuse to go to therapy. Therapists see individuals for anything that a person may be struggling with, no matter how minute or extreme it may seem.
The most common presenting issues I have worked with include anxiety and depression, work or school related stress, relationship issues, adjustments following a life-changing event, and strategies for getting the most out of life. A therapist is like a professional trainer for your mind. They work with a variety of individuals with different goals and tailor treatment to overcome barriers. The treatment is specific to you.
2. I Can Just Talk to a Friend or Family Member
While friends and family are a great support, sometimes we need an outside, unbiased, and objective perspective. Therapists are trained in different counseling approaches that have been proven to help you build tools to manage your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Many therapists specialize in areas that pertain to the specific issue at hand.
3. Therapists Just Sit There, Nod, and Ask, “How did that make you feel?”
The media has unrealistically portrayed therapists as doing next-to-nothing in sessions. As mentioned above, therapists are trained in a variety of approaches to help tackle problems and since it is your treatment, you can decide how active you want your therapist to be.
Usually, in your first session you are asked what you believe could enhance your treatment experience. Do want your therapist to be passive or direct? Do you want your therapist to explore your past experiences or just focus on the present? It’s your call. Therapists have many tools, homework assignments and session activities at their disposable that they can utilize if you desire.
4. Everyone Will Know I’m in Therapy
Therapists and everyone who works in the office are bound by state ethics and laws to maintain your privacy. Only in extreme cases, such as if the client is in extreme danger of hurting themselves or others, would this confidentiality be broken. Information can only be released if the client signs a release of information form, indicating what is allowed to be shared and with whom.
5. Therapy Is Scary and Could Make Me Feel Worse
Some may shy away from therapy altogether; others may minimize embarrassing things they’ve done or omit details while sharing with a therapist. Understandably, people do this because they are scared to stir up emotional pain again or fear being judged. Therapists listen non-judgmentally to stories of trauma and regretful behavior all day, so they’re prepared to hear the worst of the worst.
The truth is that therapy can be as difficult or easy as you make it, but being completely honest with your therapist is the best way to work through those difficult things and grow. Your therapist will allow you to go at your own pace in uncovering or reliving painful life experiences and will provide you with tools to manage your emotions as they arise.
6. Group Therapy Is Not for Me
Many people will refrain from stepping foot into a group therapy setting for fear of having to talk about feelings or problems in front of strangers. It is important to know that group members are encouraged to share at a level that is comfortable for them. So often clients end up looking forward to group despite their initial hesitations because they have developed supportive relationships, gained interpersonal skills and found a sense of universality: knowing you are not alone in your struggles. Confidentiality applies to group members as well, and the rule of thumb is, “What is said in group stays in group.”
If you have the slightest inclination to participate in therapy, I would say just go for it. You can discuss what you want to gain from therapy at your first appointment and go from there, so you have nothing to lose.