By Talia Singer, RN, Psychotherapist
There’s an old therapy joke that says if you arrive early for an appointment, you’re anxious. If you arrive late for an appointment, you’re anti-social. If you arrive exactly on time for an appointment, you’re obsessive-compulsive. The joke goes with an image of a long couch and a therapist sitting upright on a chair waiting to write down all their judgments. Some of the most common thoughts about going to therapy are simply old jokes and myths! For some reason words like therapy and psychotherapy are shrouded in mystery, and so the myths persist. These myths can prevent people from seeking help and feeling better.
Here are 5 of the all-time most common myths about therapy:
1. Myth: Therapy is where I’m told what’s the problem and who’s to blame.
Fact: In therapy you are in charge of the session. The role of the therapist is to listen and be as attentive to you as possible. Talking about a problem or a painful experience to a therapist who is listening to you thoughtfully is often more cathartic and empowering. The therapist’s job is not to judge and blame, but to provide a safe space to talk about difficult issues.
2. Myth: Therapy is only for people with “real” problems.
Fact: Some people may thing that in order to seek a therapist you must be in a mental health crisis or suffering with serious mental illness. In truth, there are many reasons to see a therapist. People come to therapy to understand themselves, their life, their relationships and live life to the fullest. There are good reasons to desire having more balance in your life.
3. Myth: Therapy is common sense.
Fact: You may hear people say that therapy is common knowledge and can be provided by good friends and family. Speaking to an experienced and knowledgeable psychotherapist provides insight related to you and only you. Imagine a place where you are the only subject of interest and no one is waiting for their turn to talk about themselves. Other helpful relationships in our lives are nurturing, but they are reciprocal. The relationship with the therapist is one of infinite curiosity about wisdom that is unique to you.
5. Myth: Once I tell my therapist that, she’ll think I’m crazy
Fact: When talking with friends you are likely to censor your thoughts or feelings because you worry about how they will react. Therapy is a place to let those thoughts go, lift the weight from your mind with someone who is trained to accept and understand it without judgment. Most importantly, therapy is a place to speak with someone in confidence. With few exceptions to safety, what is said in therapy stays in therapy.
Remember, seeking help for difficulties in your life is an active step towards finding the balance that was lost. Asking for help takes strength and courage, and finding the therapist who is right for you is the first step.