Is Going To Therapy The Same As Talking To Your Friend? 10 Myths and Truths About Therapy.
As a therapist, as well as someone who goes to therapy, I feel like I can speak first hand about the importance of attending therapy. Think about it this way: You are driving your car and all of a sudden you start to hear a funny noise. At first you ignore the noise and hope it goes away. However, over time the noise starts to get worse, and soon you realize you need to take action to fix the noise. Would you try to fix the car yourself, even though you have no training on how to fix a car, and have never fixed a car before? OR, would you take it in to a mechanic with years of training and experience fixing cars, and ask them to fix the noise? Most of us would take our car into the mechanic, get the noise fixed, and move on with our lives.
Why is it that we will trust a mechanic with our car, a plumber with our plumbing issues, a physiotherapist when your back is sore, or a doctor when we are physically ill; but we have such a difficult time trusting a therapist with our thoughts and feelings?
Further, why is it that if we do go to a mechanic, plumber, or physiotherapist (just to name a few) we are happy to tell our friends and family about our experiences, but if we go to a therapist, it is seen as something to keep quiet, and not share with others?
Why do we avoid seeking professional help when it comes to our mental health?
Mental health is just as important as physical health. Everyone, at some point in their life, will struggle with their mental health. 1 in 5 people will be diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in their lives. Unfortunately, people may be discouraged from reaching out to professionals because of the misconceptions and stigmas that exist around therapy and mental health. This is so harmful, as reaching out for support is the best thing you can do for yourself!
You are not alone in your struggles, just as you are not alone in overcoming them. We are passionate on here about talking about mental health and therapy, especially in times of high stress, such as the holidays, when everyone could use some extra support!
Once we discuss that these myths exist, we take away their power! We can fight against the stigma of mental health, and support each other through recovery and growth. Here are 10 common myths about therapy that we are going to debunk:
MYTH 1: Going to therapy means I am “weak” OR “crazy”.
Sometimes, we feel like we must be able to do things on our own. Admitting you need help is not always easy, but it is so much more beneficial to your wellbeing. Contrary to what the stigma says, reaching out for help is an act of strength not weakness!
By seeking help, you are saying that you value yourself, your family, and your life, and you want to make positive changes in your life. Therapy can help you along in this process, and support you in your personal development.
MYTH 2: All therapy will do is talk about my childhood.
This is a big myth, that is often portrayed by the media. Movies and television in particular!
While therapy can involve talking about your childhood, this is not the focus of all therapy sessions! Much of what we discuss is present and future struggles. Often times, previous experiences can be important in understanding your thoughts and feelings, but focus is usually set on how you can use this knowledge in your life moving forward!
MYTH 3: My struggles aren’t serious enough for therapy.
Many people believe that you have to have deep, serious issues to benefit from therapy… which is not true! This is a big misconception that is harmful, as it could cause someone to not seek the help that they need.
Therapy can help you through any kind of struggle, no matter how big or small. Every problem is valid and worthy of support, and you don’t have to tackle them alone!
MYTH 4: Therapy is unnecessary when you can just talk to friends.
This point is SO important! Good friends are great to have, and can certainly support you in many areas of your life. Their friendship can be helpful in getting through tough times!
However, we must remember that friends should not be put into the role of a therapist. Not only are your friends not trained or capable of being this support for you, placing them in this position can put a strain on your relationship.
These expectations can be more harmful than good, so in order to protect you, your friend, and your relationships, it’s important to keep this boundary in place. You can do this by seeking help from a trained professional who is able to help you in this capacity!
MYTH 5: Therapy isn’t worth the money.
Money is a big factor that many people will consider when seeking professional help. However, when it comes to therapy, there is a misconception that the cost of therapy outweighs the benefits.
One way to look at this is to focus on the impact that your mental health has on you and different areas of your life. Does it impact your happiness? Relationships? Work? Therapy can help you improve every area of your life, and when you think about what these things mean to you, you’ll begin to see the value in therapy.
MYTH 6: If I start therapy, it will never end.
Therapy is often viewed as something that must be done over a long period time, perhaps even never ending. When in fact, therapy does not have any limit! The length and frequency of sessions depends entirely on the person, their struggles, and their goals.
You may only need two or three sessions, and can apply the tools you learned to your own life alone. Or maybe you find it more beneficial to take sessions over a longer period of time to keep on top of your struggles. Whatever you choose, therapy is a productive use of time!
MYTH 7: Therapy is all “psychobabble”.
Therapy has been inaccurately represented as frivolous, especially by the media. Therapists are often portrayed as inferior to other healthcare professionals, which has contributed to the stigma that therapy is just nonsense jargon, with little to no accuracy or validity.
However, therapy is anything but this “psychobabble”. Therapy uses evidence based research to provide you with useful information! The strategies and tools that qualified therapists share with you are proven to work because they are based on studies that have looked at the impact of therapy on hundreds or even thousands of people.
Therapists have years of training and experience and they know the best way to treat whatever issue it is that you have! Therapists are also real people, that want to help you and work along side you! We want to meet you where you are at, with the struggles that you are facing. We are just as annoyed with “psychobabble” as you are!
MYTH 8: Therapists can only help if they’ve had the same experiences.
As humans, we want to be understood. We tend to believe that this understanding comes from experiencing the same situations and struggles. And while this is true, understanding can also come from sharing experiences as well!
Therapists can gain an understanding of your situation, as they may have encountered your struggle in a different context through either themselves or in their training and clinical experiences. Therapists have the education and experience to empathize and support you in the appropriate way. And if they don’t, they can refer you to someone who will!
MYTH 9: Medication is more effective than therapy.
There is a misconception that prescribed medication from a doctor is more useful and beneficial than participating in therapy with a mental health professional. This can lead people to think that medication is the only solution for them, which is particularly harmful as the research shows that the most positive outcomes come to people who have a combination of both the appropriate medication and therapy.
While medication can be effective for treating mental illness, it should not be seen as the only option. You have to find a balance of what works best for you. Therapy alone or in combination with medication can be beneficial in helping you with your mental health struggles. Talk to your doctor about this to find out what would work best for you!
MYTH 10: Therapists have it all figured out.
The idea that therapists have their “stuff” together is another very large misconception about therapy. Many think that because therapists have such extensive training and experience, that their life will be wrinkle-free and perfect. Therapists have been elevated onto this pedestal!
But just because someone is specialized and well versed in the mental health field, doesn’t mean they don’t have their own struggles. We must remember that therapists are people, too. You will find that MANY of the best therapists attend therapy for themselves, as just like everyone else they can struggle in certain areas of their life.
Attending therapy allows you to make sure you have a deep understanding of you own thoughts and actions. These therapy experiences can prove useful and provide them with a greater ability to support clients who are struggling in similar ways.
Take Home Message:
Many myths and misconceptions exist in regards to mental health and the use of therapy. These can be harmful to individuals struggling with their mental health and can discourage them from seeking the help that they need! Some common myths that we talked about in this post are:
- Going to therapy means I am “weak” and “crazy”.
- All therapy will do is talk about my childhood.
- My struggles aren’t serious enough for therapy.
- Therapy is unnecessary when you can just talk to friends.
- Therapy isn’t worth the money.
- If I start therapy, it will never end.
- Therapy is all “psychobabble”.
- Therapists can only help if they’ve had the same experiences.
- Medication is more effective than therapy.
- Therapists have it all figured out.
By understanding the facts of therapy, we can fight against the stigma of mental health and open a safe space for people to come forward. If you are struggling with your mental health, I hope that this post encourages you reach out for help and talk with a therapist! If you want to learn more about how to open up about your mental health with your loved ones make sure you check out this post!