It is no secret that mental health and therapy has been stigmatised throughout history. Whilst our understanding of therapy has come a long way, there are still deep-rooted misconceptions that prevent many of us from reaching out for help.
Therapy has an incredible power to change our lives, but this power is still untapped due to harmful misunderstandings of what therapy is. If you’ve been held back by an internal (or external) voice, telling you to avoid therapy, read through this article to explore some of the common myths held about the practice.
“My problems aren’t bad enough for therapy”
Therapy is for everyone and works in multiple ways. There is no such thing as a problem too small, or too big for help. Yes, therapy is vital for those with diagnoses and specific symptoms. However, it also works to address the little things, that we all too often let build up and form a dark cloud above us.
Often, our medical experiences have focused on the treatment of a problem as opposed to its prevention. How many times have you thought “if I hadn’t ignored this cough/headache/rash, and rested or taken medicine at the start, I wouldn’t be as ill now”? This experience is all too common and it can translate into the therapeutic world. Why let things get so bad before accepting it’s time to treat them? Therapy is as much about guiding your growth as it is about treating your issues.
All problems are relative. The concept of ‘bad enough’ is so subjective, and if we spend too long trying to judge our experiences and issues compared to others, we are limiting ourselves. Reasons for seeking out therapy include (but are not limited to):
- Family issues
- Work stress
- Friendship problems
- Relationship patterns
The most important thing to ask yourself is “if I wait until I feel bad enough to go to therapy, what will I achieve?” If you are already sitting with a negative self-talk about the severity of your problems, that could be a starting point to bring to your first session!
You, and your experiences, are valid.
“I will feel immediately better after one session”
There is no quick fix, no magic button or wand (if you find one, please let us know!). The healing journey takes time, and unfortunately is not something that can be solved straight away. Much like life, there are ups and downs in therapy. You may come out of one session feeling elated, with clarity and peace. On the other hand, you may come out of therapy feeling downhearted and exhausted. It is the job of the therapist to equip you with the right tools to healthily deal with these feelings post-session.
It is a natural sign of distress to want problems to be solved immediately. However, therapy will help you to learn to accept that growth takes time. Laying solid foundations of positive techniques and tools is the best way to work towards feeling better, and creating lasting change.
You hold the tools within you, you just need to learn how to use them – and that can take time.
If a therapist offers you a promise that things will feel better straight away, avoid that therapist!!!
“I’m weak if I go to therapy”
Are you weak if you go to the doctors for a kidney infection? Or to the dentist for a severe toothache? No. (If you answer yes to this, might I suggest some therapy?).
There is no guilt, shame, or strength attached to seeking help for physical health conditions. So why do we feel weakness or embarrassment when it comes to our mental health? It is often helpful to challenge these thoughts of therapy meaning that you’re weak.
It is often easier to ignore the problem, or to engage in unhealthy coping mechanisms to get through the day. What is harder, what takes more strength, is to say that you need help. Admitting that you need help and engaging in therapy to improve your quality of life is exceptionally brave. Therapists do not underestimate just how much courage it takes someone to attend their first therapy session.
“I have my friends. I don’t need a therapist”
Our friends are great listeners. They are always there for us when we need them. A support system like that is brilliant, and an excellent foundation to have when you are entering into therapy. However, there may be issues you don’t feel you can share with people so close to you. You may be concerned about their reactions, their opinions, their own issues. Relying too much on our friends and family can sometimes upset the balance of what healthy relationships depend on.
In therapy, you will never have to edit your experiences or your feelings. Your therapist is there, as an impartial guide, to support you, and you alone.
“You lie down on a couch and just talk about your childhood”
You can thank Freud for this one. Gone are the days of lying on a couch, discussing whether or not your issues stem from an Oedipus complex. Whilst there is a lot of merit in psychodynamic psychotherapy, this is not the only type of therapy available – and 99% of them won’t give you a chaise-longue to stretch out on.
Take the time to find a therapeutic style and a therapist who is right for you.
“Therapy is just an expensive venting session”
Many people are still concerned about the costs of therapy, seeing it as only an option for celebrities, or the rich elite. This is not the case.
Whilst the cost of therapy may vary, from style, person and location – there is always an affordable option. Some therapists will keep a few spaces free for concessions rates, for those who truly can’t afford the full price.
Therapy is more than a venting session (if you want it to be). It is an opportunity for a professional to hear your story and your pain. They guide you through a healing journey, offering you tools, advice, and compassion. The therapeutic relationship can become incredibly valuable to both the client and the therapist, and one that can have life-changing impacts.
Therapists are trained to:
- Be an impartial source of support
- Give you undivided attention
- Use evidence-based techniques to help you to understand your current situation
- Can recognise unhelpful patterns that you may not be aware of
- Encourage and guide you to grow and make healthy changes
“Therapy lasts for years”
It is for your benefit that therapy is an ongoing process. However, you are in control over how long this process lasts. Talking therapy is driven by you, and you can determine when you feel it is time to end your time in therapy.
Your therapist wants what is best for you. If they can see that you may be asking to leave, just as the work you are doing is starting to get to some difficult root causes, they may challenge your reasons for leaving. However, this is just a healthy, therapeutic discussion, based in the therapist having your best interests at heart.
As individuals begin the therapeutic process, they begin to recognise just how valuable this support is in their continued development. This is why many individuals do choose to engage in therapy for the long haul.
You are in control, just as in your choice to begin therapy, you can stop when you feel it’s time.
“The therapist has it all worked out”
Therapists are people too. They all have their own pain, issues, and experiences. It is often through these experiences that therapists are drawn to the field – with a desire to help people in the same way they were helped through their journey.
Your therapist may seem like a beacon of wisdom and insight and this can seem intimidating. However, this insight comes from many years of training, experience, and working on themselves, and this is an ongoing process for many therapists. They are still impacted by the external world – just as you can be.
At Hope Therapy we have a vast range of therapists, who are there to support and guide you – no matter how big or small your issues may feel. Our friendly and professional staff are equipped to help you effectively manage your mental health and wellbeing so that you can once again, enjoy your life to the fullest. For more information or to book, please feel free to contact us.
Other blog posts that may be of interest:
Owner and lead counsellor of Hope Therapy & Counselling Services. Ian draws upon various approaches including CBT, Person-Centred Counselling and Mindfulness.
To book a session with Ian or one of the ‘Hope’ Team just get in touch.