Although awareness of mental health issues appears to be on the rise, as a society we still have a long way to go in regards to reducing the stigma surrounding mental health challenges. Many celebrities and public figures have spoken publicly about seeking therapy, which has helped to lessen the stigma regarding getting mental health treatment. Additionally, many popular reality shows depict their stars attending therapy appointments.
However, as a mental health therapist myself, I have noticed that there are still a lot of common misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding therapy. The following are five myths about therapy, debunked.
1. In order to seek therapy you must have "serious issues."
I believe that everyone can benefit from going to therapy. There is a popular misconception that going to therapy means that you are "crazy" or "weak." However, it actually is a sign of true strength to reach out for help when you are struggling. Further, the degree of severity of someone's issues is completely relative. We can all seek to find someone who is struggling more or less intensely then we are, however this does not make our challenges any less valid.
Plenty of people who have not been diagnosed with serious mental illnesses seek therapy. Therapists can also help you work through difficult life transitions, relationship challenges, and career issues. If your intuition is telling you that you could benefit from seeking professional help, I would advise you to reach out and do so.
2. Going to therapy means spending a lot of time talking about childhood.
Processing past issues from childhood may be a part of your treatment, however this is not always the case. There are a myriad of therapeutic approaches and depending on the challenges that you are struggling with, you may find one to be more beneficial then another. Some treatment approaches are more past-focused, whereas others are more present and future-oriented. Not every therapeutic approach will work for all individuals, therefore it is important that you do some research to determine which one sounds like it would align best with your preferences and presenting issues.
3. Seeing a therapist is like having a paid friend.
A therapist is a trained and objective professional, whereas a friend is someone who is not neutral and has not received training in working with mental health challenges. A friend can be a great source of social support, however they are not equipped to provide therapeutic services. Additionally, when you talk to a therapist you have the comfort of knowing that they are bound by confidentiality standards.
Further, a therapist doesn't simply give you advice. Rather, an effective therapist aims to partner with you to establish goals and to help you to come to your own conclusions and realizations. When you look for a therapist, it is also important to see if they are using evidence-based treatments i.e. treatment approaches that have been research-proven to be effective. Further, you may not "click" with every therapist and it is ok to have a few initial sessions with different therapists to determine which one is the best fit for you.
4. Therapy will go on forever.
Some therapeutic treatments may be shorter-term, whereas others may be longer-term. However, it is important to note that ultimately it is the client-not the therapist-who determines the length of treatment. Additionally, the goal of most therapy is for it to eventually end. Therapists can help you to learn strategies and tools so that eventually you can better manage your stressors or mental health challenges on your own. That being said, if you are struggling with a chronic mental illness, you may benefit from being in longer-term therapy. There is nothing wrong with seeking therapy for the long-term, but the choice is entirely up to you.
Finally, it takes true courage and strength to reach out for help when you are struggling. Therapy can definitely require an investment in regards to time and money, however in the long run the benefits can be well worth it. It can be incredibly helpful to take an hour out of every week to share your innermost thoughts and feelings with a nonjudgmental and caring professional. Further, there are many therapists who take insurance, offer sliding-scale fees, or have flexible schedules in order to best accommodate the needs of their clients.
No matter what you are grappling with, know that you do not have to fight these battles alone and that healing is entirely possible. As a therapist, my aim is to hold a safe and compassionate space for my clients to express their underlying pain, hurt, and emotions, without fear of judgment or disapproval. Every day I am inspired by the strength of my clients and the challenges that they have worked to overcome.
A blogger for welldoing.org explained how therapy has helped her when she stated,
Therapy has helped me to see the ways in which I really see myself. I used to believe I quite liked myself - it was a shock to realize that I didn't...Through therapy I am trying to accept rather than judge my feelings, and to figure out where they have come from and what they are trying to tell me...Therapy is my ultimate 'safe place'. It's somewhere I'm accepted for who I really am, by someone who cares about me and who is genuinely interested in me and not in who they want me to be. And that acceptance gives me a priceless gift - a greater sense of freedom, and of hope.
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