Most of us, at one point or another, have heard the word “therapy” used in a comical or derisive way. We hear others joke about “My kids are going to be in therapy one day because of me,” or see a television/movie character react with either shock or mocking when they discover that another character has seen a therapist. Heck, even people in my own life have gotten that “deer in the headlights” look when I tell them that I’m a therapist. (Cue the “Are you diagnosing me right now?” questions. By the way, the answer is no!)
All of these reactions come from the beliefs or misconceptions that our society has around therapy and mental health in general. So I’m here today to debunk at least some of those beliefs.
- Going to therapy does not mean that you are “crazy”.
Let’s just start with the elephant in the room. People (incorrectly) assume that only “the crazy people” need a therapist and that if I admit I’m in therapy, that must mean I’m crazy, too. First, let’s just take that word right out of our vocabulary on this subject. “
Crazy” Everyone, I repeat, everyone needs help from time to time. We’re all humans here, right? The sole purpose of therapy is to help you resolve the issues that prevent you from living the life you want to live. This can be anything, big or small. A therapist is someone who is trained to help you do this in a more effective way than maybe your friends and family can. Your loved ones are too close to the issue and likely have a strong opinion on it because they care so deeply for you. A therapist is someone who has an outside perspective and can possibly provide a way of looking at things that you hadn’t yet considered. Of course, that’s a super simple explanation of therapy, but there it is – therapy demystified. 🙂
- Your therapist does not (and should not) “know it all”.
Maybe the best kept “secret” of therapy is that YOU as the client are just as much of an expert as the therapist is, just on different things. Yes, your therapist should absolutely be a professional that has expertise on how to be a therapist and on whatever topics in which they specialize. But you will always know you better than your therapist does. You are the expert on you. As a therapist, my job is to help you explore and better understand yourself. This helps you gain insight into why these issues are showing up in your life and the way to address them that best fits you. In fact, if you are working with a therapist that pretends to know it all or doesn’t take your perspective into consideration, you might need a new therapist, my friend.
- Your therapist is not going to judge you or ridicule you.
As therapists, it is a huge part of our job to provide space for you to be open and honest without fear of judgement. True, you and your therapist will likely not always agree about things, and that’s okay. I always tell my clients, “I can work with honesty.” Being dishonest in a therapy session out of fear is not going to help you work through it. I can handle whatever you’ve got to tell me and I will still do my best to help you through it. So bring it! We also have our own pasts and struggles. Chances are, we can really relate to what you’re going through! Again, if your therapist shames you, judges you, or makes fun of you… get a new therapist!
- All therapists are not the same!
As suggested by the last two points, you may want to try a couple of therapists before you find one that you feel is a good fit for you. There are a number of different approaches that therapists take and about a thousand different topics that can be addressed. Find a therapist that specializes in working with the topics that you want to focus on, as well as one with whom you feel comfortable. Talk to your therapist about what you’re looking for so that you can decide together whether or not it’s a good fit. If the whole “laying on the couch” approach isn’t your cup of tea, find a therapist who will sit and sip coffee with you, Skype with you, or take a walk around the park with you. There truly are options to fit every need.
These only scratch the surface of the strange beliefs and misconceptions we often encounter about therapy, but it’s a good place to start. If you still have questions about what therapy is, how it works, or how to get started, here’s a great article by GoodTherapy that answers a lot of common questions.
Take care of yourself! ❤