Therapy can be tricky. Before even walking in the door for their first appointment, many people already have a variety of preconceived notions. And these beliefs can become blocks in treatment, interfering with the therapeutic process.
Below two seasoned psychologists debunk common myths about psychotherapy and offer pointers on making the most out of therapy.
Misconceptions and Concerns About Psychotherapy
According to Ryan Howes, Ph.D, psychologist, writer and professor in Pasadena, California, “Some clients expect their therapists to give them direct advice, telling them who to date and what to study and when to break up.” It’s easy to think this way considering that TV therapists dole out advice without hesitation. “But most therapists resist giving advice because they believe it’s better for the client to learn to solve their own problems,” he says.
Clients also worry about what others will think. They wonder what’ll happen if their co-workers or friends find out they’re going to therapy. They might automatically assume others will think they’re “weak, flawed [or] crazy,” comments Chicago psychologist and life coach John Duffy, Ph.D. In reality, though, “More often than not, people tend to be very supportive,” he says. Plus, it’s up to you who you tell about your therapy, and confidentiality laws protect your privacy.
The therapy process itself can get confusing. According to Duffy, people might have questions like: “Is it brainwashing? Will it change my personality? What if focusing on my problems will make them worse, not better?”
These myths and concerns stem from various sources, including therapists themselves. Howes says: “…no two therapies/therapists are alike, the media does a lousy job of portraying realistic therapy, many people are still too ashamed to talk about it and therapists don’t always do a good job of teaching clients the best ways to get the most from their therapy.”
How to Make the Most of Therapy
1. Do your homework.
Be a discerning consumer by doing your research. Therapists “have different approaches, and come from different schools of thought,” Duffy says. For instance, you might learn the differences between treatment approaches, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and psychodynamic therapy, he says.