All too often my clients tell me in our intake session that “well this is a lot different than what I’ve seen on tv”, “this was better than I expected it to be”, “this wasn’t that bad”. The only frame of reference most people have for what therapy is like is from what is portrayed in film or television. Not only do counselors have to battle the stigma of mental health with our clients but, this added layer of “not knowing what to expect” when they walk into our office. So, hopefully this blog will help to debunk some common myths of therapy and offer clearer insight into the therapeutic process.
Myth #1: My therapist will tell me how to solve my problem.
Part of the job of a therapist is not to give advice to clients. We educate, offer alternative perspectives, and may make suggestions on things you can try to get to where you want to be. Rarely, do counselors give advice and lay out a recipe for how you can “fix” the issue you’re coming in for. The solution is something you have to find within yourself, whether it be through internal insight, or changing your thoughts/behavior. Therapists are there to guide and help you to get unstuck, so you are able to come up with ways to solve your own problems. After all, self-sufficiency is something we all strive for.
Myth #2: Therapy is just talking about emotions.
Emotions are only one-third of what makes up our mental health. I always tell me clients that there are three things we can control in our lives, our thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. In therapy, emotions are bound to come up. Many of us are not equipped with the vocabulary or skills to communicate and regulate our emotions. So, we learn how to do that in therapy. However, our emotions are linked to our thoughts, which are linked to our actions. All are interrelated and addressing one without the other two would be a disservice to anyone. There may be sessions where the focus is just on your thoughts or actions, emotions may not even be brought up in session! Emotions can be a frightening thing to have to talk about, especially to someone you don’t quite know, fear not, you will not be drilled to confront these emotions each time you come in. Let your therapist know about your fears of talking about emotions if this is a concern for you. That way, you both can ease into the topic together and it will feel safer.
Myth #3: I had a bad experience with therapy so maybe it isn’t for me.
You’re at a store and want a new pair of shoes. You know your shoe size, but every style of shoe fits you a bit differently. So, you grab a couple pairs you like and begin to try them on. The first one doesn’t leave enough room at the top for your toes. The second fits pretty well but once you start walking you notice that you don’t feel any arch support from the shoe. Finally, you try on the third. It feels good, looks good, and when you walk, you feel supported. The same goes for trying to find the right counselor for you. We all practice in different ways from different modalities. Some may mesh well with your personality, others not so much. Maybe you are looking for a counselor closer to your age? Or identifies as the same gender as you? These factors all come into play when trying to find the right counselor. If you have a bad experience it can feel disheartening and taxing to try again. Don’t give up. Do research. Schedule a consult. Your mental health is worth investing in and so is finding the right counselor. You wouldn’t go to the Dollar Store and expect to find a pair of shoes on the first try that will last you the next five years. Be patient and try some on until you find the right fit.
Myth #4: After one session I will be “fixed”.
Maybe. Maybe all you need are some skills to help manage your stress. Or how to have that “break-up talk” with your significant other. Maybe you just need to vent for an hour, and you’ll feel better. Maybe. More often than not, we have a lot more underneath the surface. Therapy takes time. We want the quick fix, to make things better “right now”. Realistically, this does not happen. I always give my clients this example, I ask them how old they were when these “symptoms” started and how old they are now. I subtract the two and have a solid number. I tell them, “it took you X amount of years to develop these habits, it may take a bit to rewire and undo them. It shouldn’t take X amount of years to undo them, but it will take some time”. We cannot go from never running a day in our lives to placing first in the Boston Marathon in a day or two. We have to work at it each day, practice our skills, and soon they turn into healthy habits, which in turn help us achieve our overall goals. Give yourself some time and grace. You’ll get there.
These myths are only a few of what I have heard from clients. There are many others and you may have some different ones of your own. It is difficult walking into a new situation with no idea of what to expect. Our anxiety starts to kick in and we question whether we can actually do this. Well, you can do it. If you know anyone who has been or is currently in therapy, ask what their experience is like. You can always call a potential therapist and ask them what to expect from you or check out their FAQ tab on their page to gain further information. Coming to therapy does not have to be a scary task, it can be enjoyable and a place just for you.
If this has sparked your interest and you’d like to know more or are interested in making an appointment. Give us a call at Breaking Free Services. We would love to hear from you and answer any questions you may have.