A client recently told me that they were embarrassed to be in therapy. They felt as though being in therapy was a sign of weakness and signified that they could not handle their own problems. After speaking with this client, I reflected on the many misconceptions I have heard about the therapeutic process and who exactly can benefit from speaking to a therapist. In this blog I want to shed light on some of these common misconceptions.
1. Therapy is for "crazy people."
Although there are many stigmas surrounding therapy, we live in a very complicated society where we are inundated with more information than most of us can process. Speaking to a therapist to manage your mental health is similar to working out at the gym to maintain your physical health. Devoting 45 minutes a week to sharing, processing, and analyzing your feelings with a non-judgmental professional is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself.
2. People who see therapists have “real problems.”
Everyone has problems and their problems are important to them. Regardless of how “serious” they are by society’s standards, they are serious to you. Whether you are upset about living on the street or chipping a nail, you are entitled to be upset about your problems. They deserve as much time and effort as you are willing to devote to them. Remember, therapists do not have a magic wand and resolving them is a collaborative process between you and your therapist.
3. Therapy is a place where you only discuss negative things.
Many of my clients come into their session and say they have nothing to talk because "nothing bad happened this week." Another widely held misconception is that therapy sessions have to be negative and upsetting. Therapy is not always about complaining about your problems. It sometimes involves talking about what went well and celebrating your victories. If you acknowledge what you did right, you can replicate it or apply it to other areas of your life. The ultimate purpose of therapy is personal growth and development and that can be accomplished by acknowledging both our successes and failures.
4. People are in therapy for a distinct period of time.
Therapy means different things to different people. Some clients begin working with a therapist for a specific reason and once they have processed that reason they terminate treatment. Other clients pop in and out of therapy throughout their life. They see a therapist when they feel they need to and don't see one when they feel like they don't need to. Other clients go to therapy on a regular basis throughout their life. There is no specific amount of time you need to see a therapist. It is important to touch base with your therapist on a regular basis and ensure that they are giving you what you need from this process.
5. The therapist is the expert and the client needs to listen to them.
Therapy is a collaborative process. Although therapists are professionally trained, clients are the experts of their lives and always know what is best for themselves. A therapist is supposed to guide clients on the journey to self-discovery not determine what they think is best for them when they do not know what it is like to walk in their shoes.