Podcast: Therapy Myths & Misconceptions
While therapy is often used as one method of treatment for mental illness, it still has a large cloud of mystery around it. Due to its portrayal in movies and television shows, there are a lot of misconceptions about what it means to go to therapy, what a session looks like and what the benefits to therapy can be.
In this episode, we talk about some of the common myths surrounding therapy, touch on the different types of therapy and why Jackie loves therapy so much.
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About The Not Crazy Podcast Hosts
Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations, available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from Gabe Howard. To learn more, please visit his website, gabehoward.com.
Jackie Zimmerman has been in the patient advocacy game for over a decade and has established herself as an authority on chronic illness, patient-centric healthcare, and patient community building. She lives with multiple sclerosis, ulcerative colitis, and depression.
Computer Generated Transcript for ‘Therapy Myths’ Episode
Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer-generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.Announcer: You’re listening to Not Crazy, a Psych Central podcast. And here are your hosts, Jackie Zimmerman and Gabe Howard.Gabe: You’re listening to Not Crazy. I want to introduce my co-host, Jackie Zimmerman. She is married to a retired rapper and also lives with depression.
Jackie: And I will introduce you to my co-host, Gabe Howard, who lives with not a retired rapper. Instead, a very lovely woman named Kendall. He also lives with bipolar.
Gabe: What was Adam’s rap name? I feel that’s important for the listeners to know.
Jackie: Adam’s rap name was Ben Holmes.
Gabe: Ben Holmes, you can YouTube that after you’re done listening to Not Crazy. Jackie, we want to talk about therapy. We just want to dive right in. Which, of course, is what you’re supposed to do in therapy and talk about misconceptions, myths, rumors. Most people believe that therapy is accurately portrayed on television and it’s almost never accurately portrayed on television.
Jackie: No. I want to preface this whole episode with the fact that I fucking love therapy and I think everybody should be in therapy and the world will be so much happier and calmer and just a better place to exist if everybody was in therapy.
Gabe: It’s important that we point out that licensed social workers, psychologists, and the Therapy Business Association is not paying us for this episode, but.
Jackie: They are definitely not. But you know what? I don’t care. I would donate those words time and time again because I love therapy.
Gabe: Why do you like therapy so much? What is it about therapy that you feel has benefits? Because you said everyone. You didn’t say everyone with a mental health crisis, everyone with mental illness. You literally said everyone. What is it about therapy that you feel has benefits to literally everyone?
Jackie: The thing that I love the most about therapy, one, candidly, you get to talk about yourself pretty much the whole time. And where else in your life can you do that in a constructive way?
Jackie: Where you can dive right in?
Gabe: Podcast. Podcast. You can get a podcast.
Jackie: Yep. Accurate. I think it’s easier to get therapy for everybody.
Gabe: It’s definitely cheaper.
Jackie: Yes. I don’t know, actually. So in therapy, you talk about yourself in a constructive way. So you’re diving into your thoughts, your feelings, your opinions, everything about yourself that is worth thinking twice about and understanding it, specifically your behavior. So the things that you do in life that may be good, self-sabotaging or everywhere in between and working really hard to understand that. And how can anybody not benefit from that in your work relationships, in your life, in the way you interact with the world? Understanding why you do what you do is like a gift.
Gabe: But isn’t that something that you can do with your bestie? I mean, seriously, can’t can’t you just get a group of your buddies hang out at the local watering hole and talk about all the minutia and shit in your life and end up in the exact same place without bringing, you know, doctors into this?
Jackie: A couple of years ago, I probably would have said yes. Yeah, sure, you can hash out everything in your life with your friend or your sibling. I know my sister and I have a tendency to use each other as like a little bit of therapy. Where we will be like, hey, let’s talk about this thing in circles until we’re both blue in the face and then we feel better about it. That is still a really beneficial thing to have those conversations. But for me and what I do in my therapy and with my therapist, shouts to Kristen, is we talk about the science behind it, why we do these things. So Kristen uses research, she uses stats. We know how much I love stats and behaviors and why people do things. So she can say, you know, we looked at 100 people and they do what you do and we found out this is why they do it. And now I understand why I do the things that I do. The difference between like hashing out a problem with a friend and doing it with a therapist is understanding the why behind it.
Gabe: There’s also a little more, let’s be honest, when we vent with our friends, that’s where it ends. You know, our friends aren’t solutions focused for us. And in fact, I get really annoyed when I come home from work and I’m like, I hate my job, I hate my life, everything sucks and all my coworkers piss me off and my wife starts giving me advice on how to handle them. I’m like, Do you not understand the system? I want to complain. You hug me and tell me that I work with evil people and we’re done. Therapists, they don’t. They don’t want to just talk about it. You know, step one is to get it out in the open. But then there’s all of these other steps. There’s doing something about it. Like you said, understanding the why behind your behavior and assigning homework so you can figure out how not to do it in the future. I love my friends, but it’s really not their role to fix me. It’s their role to support me. And therapy is not just about support. In fact, I would kind of argue that therapy is not really about support at all. Therapy is about getting better so that you don’t need to be in therapy.
Jackie: Well, not only that, but your therapist in the beginning at least is a third party observer in your life. They don’t know you the way that your friends know you. In my opinion, if you do therapy, the “right” way is you give them the unfiltered version of yourself. I say things in therapy that I wouldn’t tell my friends because I don’t want their judgment or their concern or any of their feelings thrown on to me. And I know that my therapist won’t do that. She listens, she gives feedback and she helps me work through those things as opposed to taking it on as her responsibility, the way that my friends might.
Gabe: It’s interesting what you just said there, and I kind of want to touch on it for a moment. Third party observer. Another way to say that is that they’re not biased, right? When your friends say something. I. I have a friend and I love him. He is the greatest person that I have ever known. And I’m not overselling it like I look up to him. And when he tells me stories about him at work, I think I would fire you. I would fire you so hard when he tells me the things that his supervisors say to him. I am on his supervisors’ side. I don’t tell him the truth. That’s another way to say it. I lie to him. I tell him that I agree with him. His supervisors, nuts and, oh, my god, I can’t believe you worked for that hell pit. I actually don’t think that at all. But I’m not. I don’t want to jeopardize my friendship. I don’t want to overstep. I don’t want to add on to his already frustrated state. So I do the male equivalent of stroking his hair, telling him nobody understands him, that jobs suck. And then we get pizza and watch The Avengers. A therapist won’t do that. It’s malpractice if a therapist does that.
Jackie: Well, I guess that goes into what is the job of a friend, right? And I think a lot of people have different opinions on this. Is your friend’s job to just support you or is it your friend’s job to agree with you? Right. Is if your friend disagrees with you in these situations, are they a good friend or are they a bad friend? And what’s the beauty about therapy is that your therapist doesn’t have to think about any of that and you don’t have to think about any of that.
Gabe: I live with bipolar disorder, and when I first started to go into therapy, I wanted to talk about the trauma of this illness. I wanted to talk about how I felt and how I couldn’t handle all of these emotions and how scared and terrified I was. And that was the focus of therapy when I first started going. And it was invaluable. But then when things started to get better and I started to be in a good place, then I learned coping skills. I learned all the things that I can do. If or when I get sick again. So while I’m well is when I learn those coping skills and it’s no different than other things that we do in life, you know, when my house is not on fire, that’s when I have smoke detectors. That’s when I buy a fire extinguisher. That’s when I learned the escape plan or do fire drills. I don’t make the plan when the house is on fire.
Jackie: Do you do fire drills at your house?
Gabe: We do. It’s just basically me in the middle of the night yelling, fire. My wife hates it. She hates it.
Jackie: My therapist has been really good about when do you want to come back? One week, three weeks, a month. We don’t have a set thing. It’s whenever I feel like I need to come back. And I said to her one time, well, everything’s great. So I don’t know. I could probably wait three weeks. And that’s when she was like, you know, it’s really good to talk about things that are good, too. It’s good for your brain. It’s good for your heart. It’s good for all the feelings. You can do that, too. Gabe, how often do you go to therapy?
Gabe: Because it is solutions oriented. For me, I go to therapy whenever I have a problem that I want to resolve. So I can’t nail that down. For me because, you know, I was diagnosed 16 years ago, when I first was diagnosed. Once a week. I mean, once a week like clockwork. And then it became like every other week to disclose. Right now, I haven’t been to a therapist in probably about six months now. I still have her. She’s still mine. I still have her card. But I have been doing well and I don’t have anything pressing, but also to disclose it. It probably is time to go back. There’s things that are somewhat hard to get over that I want to discuss with, I just want to discuss them with her. So
Jackie: Good for you, Gabe.
Gabe: So there you go. I have kind of come full circle right from once a week to every other week to as needed to a long stretch. That’s what therapy is.
Jackie: What kind of therapy do you do? Like when you’re in your sessions, what do you do?
Gabe: Well, so I see a cognitive behavioral therapist. I’m really a big fan of the CBT model. There’s many other models out there. I’m not criticizing any other type of method at all. And in fact, I encourage you, if you don’t like the method that you’re using or you don’t like your therapist, switch it up. Switch it up. I’ve seen a lot of therapists in my life, and I think that’s helpful.
Jackie: Well, the best therapist for you is the one that you’re going to go to. This is the ongoing theme for me, right? The best thing for you is the thing that you’re going to do.
Gabe: We will be right back after these messages.
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Jackie: We’re back discussing why I love therapy.
Gabe: Let’s talk about pop culture for a minute, because I think it’s really important. Right. One of the most famous mental health practitioners in the country is Dr. Frasier Crane. Almost everybody has heard of Dr. Frasier Crane.
Jackie: Unless you’re under the age of 30 right now, and in which case this is a television show that you can probably find on Nick at Nite or something.
Gabe: It’s on Netflix, lady.
Jackie: Oh, I never watched Frasier. I don’t know.
Gabe: So I yeah, to just fill out a little background, Dr. Frasier Crane started as a character on Cheers, a long running show. Then he got his own spin off where he’s a psychiatrist and they showed him at work from time to time. And it just wasn’t a very accurate portrayal. For one thing, they showed him giving actual therapy so he would talk to somebody for an hour and then prescribe their medication. That that does happen. It can happen. It is not completely incorrect. There are psychiatrists that do therapy along with medication, but that’s not the way that it’s usually done. Usually. Psychiatrists handle medication, psychologists, social workers, marriage and family therapists, they handle therapy.
Jackie: Yes, I would say that is a fairly large misconception a lot of people think about going to therapy. The thing about talk therapy and you assume therapy equals also getting medication. I think a lot of people don’t understand that most people you go to for talk therapy cannot prescribe medication. So your social workers and your psychologists cannot prescribe medication. You need a psychiatrist for that, which is a separate appointment. Or if you’re like me, my PCP and my neurologist will prescribe those meds for me because of all my other fun maladies. Mala-days, melodies? Other issues.
Gabe: Jackie, we know you love therapy, but let’s talk about the very, very first time that you went. So here you are. You’re Jackie Zimmerman, queen of getting shit done. You’re a badass. You’re an ex-roller derby girl. You’re tough. I really think that you embody toughness. And now you’re going to walk into a room and dump all of your problems on a stranger. Walk us through why you decided to make that decision and why maybe you didn’t want to.
Jackie: The first time I went to therapy, I don’t remember was a million years ago, but the time that I started seeing Kristen, which to me embodies this whole situation, was about four years ago when my dad had died about six months earlier. The family dynamic had changed pretty significantly and I was not coping with it. My depression was through the roof. I was feeling out of control of my emotions, how it interacted with my family. I started feeling suicidal again. I just couldn’t handle it. There was too much of everything, too much bad, too much emotion, too much sadness, too much grief, too much anger. All of those things. I just knew everything was about to explode. I don’t know if I could have told you it was those 10 things or whatever, but I knew the lingering grief from my father’s death. The issues I was having interacting with the other members of my family. It was a powder keg. It just was like on the verge of exploding and exploding to me. At that time meant utter and total meltdown in my life, being unable to just handle anything at that time. And at that time also, I was not on meds. So it was like a double whammy of not being able to handle my situations and not having any support, whether that be through meds or through therapy.
Gabe: When you say complete and total meltdown, you know, let’s really define that. You mean like just when we think of an implosion, it’s usually some crazy woman screaming at everybody to get the hell away from her and that she never wants to talk to them again, causing real damage in the lives of the person doing it. Am I describing it correctly?
Jackie: You are, aside from the sort of outward expression, all of that. I did quit my job. I was having issues with a lot of friends in my life. I was trying really hard not to put my grief on other people, but by doing that, I was actually taking on their grief as the result of my dad dying. So the shades are always drawn. It’s always dark. I probably was showering once a week at best. Under a blanket, cuddling with a dog, watching some shitty rerun on Netflix all day, every day. Not even wanting to get the mail out of the mailbox. Just total despair. It was a combination of all of those things. But I wasn’t showing it. I wasn’t expressing it. I just was taking it all in. And it was building. It was, powder keg is the best way where it was slowly layering up to the point where I was never like screaming or yelling at anybody. That’s not really who I am. I just was not interacting with the world anymore. I stopped going out, stopped taking phone calls., stopped answering texts. I isolate. I told you I wallow when I’m really depressed. So I was isolating, wallowing and not taking any steps at that time to get better. I know me and I know when I get really depressed and when things get really bad, I can see it. I know what’s happening. And so that time I said I need to go back to therapy badly.
Gabe: And how did you come up with this idea? Because I imagine that you had to believe a lot of the same myths as other people. You watch the same TV shows, you live in the same society. Did you honestly believe when you woke up one day you’re like, oh, this is gonna fix me? It’s gonna be perfect? I know this is the way, or were you skeptical? Were you desperate? Where was Jackie in that moment?
Jackie: I had been to therapy previously in my life. Never in the depths of this before, but I have seen the benefits often on just making me feel better. And in that moment, I didn’t feel like I had any other options to make it better. You know, like there was nowhere else I could go, so I knew I had to do something. So that’s where I started.
Gabe: And I think a lot of people can understand that despair, that desperation, that loneliness, that I have no idea what to do. And obviously being able to work through that with somebody is very empowering and it helps you take back control. Right? Therapists don’t tell you what to do. They help you decide what to do. And I think that’s another myth that you just go to the therapist. They tell you what to do and then suddenly life gets better. Sometimes I kind of wish that was true because I
Jackie: You’re right.
Gabe: Hate it when I have to think for myself.
Jackie: There are times that I’ve kind of said to Kristen, could you just tell me what I should do right now? Because I don’t know. And she won’t do it. She won’t tell me what to do. And there are times that I go there and I just cry and we barely speak. But I just needed to go somewhere where I could cry and with somebody, again, who won’t take on my emotions and let them affect their life. And then there are other times where I lesson plan my therapy, where I show up. And this is the things I really need to talk about today. Let’s make it efficient so we don’t run out of time. That’s my favorite way to do it.
Gabe: Some other myths that I want to dispel right now is that therapy is like a new age millennial thing, and one of the reasons that I want to dispel it is because, you know, young people always just seem to get like beat up with this idea that talking about your feelings or emotions are going to a mental health practitioner is some, oh, young people are pansies, they’re emo, and they can’t deal. And I think that’s damaging because I think it prevents young people from seeking therapy. But more than that, it’s untrue. It’s bullshit. Therapy has been around for generations. And so many people have taken advantage of it.
Jackie: I agree therapy is something that has been around for a long time and it continues to evolve. So all of these people who have been naysayers or who think that it is just laying on a couch, talking to a doctor. What I love about therapy right now is, and specifically about Kristin, who I cannot say enough good things about, is she’s always learning new things and she brings them into our sessions. So new things, new trends, new stuff and therapy are coming into my sessions and they’re improving them. And I think when you look at the younger generation now, they know this, right. It’s not your father’s therapy anymore. There’s a lot of different things and ways that you can do therapy now that people are enjoying.
Gabe: But I think it’s important to point out that you said not your father’s therapy, acknowledging that our father’s generation did go to therapy, and specifically this is probably one of my favorite stories to tell, my father went to therapy. First, let me tell you about my dad. My dad is now 70 years old. He’s a retired truck driver. The big 18 wheeler truck. That was my dad. He says things like I’m the man of the house, even though my mother makes every single decision the man has ever had. He really does believe in this certain amount of chutzpah and masculinity and be a man. And I’m not saying any of this, you know, please don’t write letters that my dad’s a misogynistic prick. He’s not. He really isn’t. My sister went to the military. My dad was her biggest supporter. And, of course, deeply, deeply worried and concerned when war broke out.
Jackie: Our dad sound very similar in that my dad wished he had been in 18 wheeler truck driver and also had two daughters who basically he told could do anything they wanted to do forever and ever. But back to your dad.
Gabe: So my dad, 70 years old, truck driver, blue collar, bad ass man’s man. When I went to therapy after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I was in my therapist’s office bawling. I was so terrified and scared and everything that comes with it. Remember, I was in a psychiatric hospital. It was a mess. But one of the things that I thought about is, oh, my God, I’ve got to tell my dad, I’m seeing a therapist. I have to admit to my father that I can’t handle life. I’m not man enough. Those are the exact words that went through my brain. I’m not man enough.
Jackie: Well, I think that as a man, I can’t relate to that. But the I can’t handle it. I think that is a over whelming emotion of people who want to go to therapy but can’t tell the people in their lives because they think that it looks like they can’t handle themselves.
Gabe: And here’s why that’s so messed up. I told my dad, I remember we were standing outside and I said to my dad, I’m seeing a therapist. And he said, well, you need to talk to somebody. You know, I see a therapist. Which floored me. And I said, you. You see a therapist. And he said, yes. After your mother and I got done with marriage counselling, I decided I would like to see somebody. Flooring number two. And I said, why didn’t you tell me? And he said, that’s not the kind of thing that a parent discusses with their children. Are you kidding me? I was afraid to tell you what if I was afraid to go? What if I chose not to go? Now, obviously, I didn’t tell my dad any of these things. I was just so floored. And it was it was kind of emotional. Right. My dad and I are just kind of standing there outside in the dark. And I’m just like, who the hell are you? And since my diagnosis, my dad confided in me all kinds of things that he never shared, not not publicly, not with his family. So I have to imagine. And I don’t know for certain. But clearly there must have been some level of shame or he would have brought this up. Or maybe he doesn’t like to talk to me because I talk too much, dominate the conversation. He’s like, I don’t need this shit. I don’t know.
Jackie: Like right now.
Gabe: Yeah, but my belief, Jackie, was that he would be embarrassed of me.
Jackie: Yeah, I had something similar to that when I first started going to therapy, I was in college. I remember I just didn’t tell my family once I got really sick and everything started tanking and I told them I was in therapy. I think they fully understood why I was there. There was no judgement. But before that, it was a little bit of what’s so bad? What’s so bad about your life that you need therapy? And they would have never said that to me, but it was never like, hey, go to therapy. This is a great thing for everybody. And I don’t think there would have ever been any negative emotion around it. It just wasn’t encouraged. It wasn’t normalized. And I think to your story, if your parents had told you they were in counseling or your dad was in therapy, it could’ve normalized it and you wouldn’t have had to talk about it. You wouldn’t have had to share what you spoke about in your sessions. But it could have at least been like, this is not a bad thing, it doesn’t make you less of a person or less of a man. Therapy is for everyone.
Gabe: Yeah, when I go to the dentist, I don’t think, oh, my God, how am I going to tell my family? Normalize it, let people know that you’re doing it. Because I made the decision to go ahead and do it and just suffer the consequences of my father’s disappointment. But what if I would have said no?
Jackie: This is why I think Generation Z is amazing, because it is much more normalized. I mean, I post about therapy on Facebook and, I’m not in my 20s anymore, but I think it’s worth telling other people I do this and I love it and it’s beneficial and there’s no shame in doing it. Like I love therapy. I can’t. I love therapy so much. We could spend a whole episode talking about why I love it and the reasons I love it and the things that I say when I’m in there that I love in the way that my therapist says things that I love because it’s just so great. And my goal, my political platform of therapy for all is coming to fruition with our next generation at least closer than maybe it has been in the past.
Gabe: Jackie 2020.
Jackie: Yes. It’s a little soon. It’s a little soon. 2024 maybe.
Gabe: You’ve been listening to the Not Crazy podcast with Gabe and Jackie. And we have a personal favor. I know, no big surprise here. One, we want you to review and rate this podcast wherever you found it. Use your words, write us a nice message. If you have any topics, ideas, complaints, or suggestions, hit up show@PsychCentral.com. Finally, share this podcast widely, and remember, we like to give stuff to our listeners. So after the credits, there’s an outtake. We screwed something up. We hope you enjoy it. Bye.
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Podcast, N. (2019). Podcast: Therapy Myths & Misconceptions. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 4, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/podcast-therapy-myths-misconceptions/