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Myths & Misconceptions About Therapy

Many people have a perception of counseling that doesn't quite match up to reality.


If you think therapy means lying on a couch with a box of tissues and paying top dollar to talk to someone who doesn't quite get it, or that it's only for people who are mentally ill, think again.


It turns out that most people could benefit from therapy -- but it takes work on your part, a therapist who meets your needs and really does understand you, and as much time as it takes -- at your convenience and within your budget -- to make a difference.


Here are 10 common misunderstandings that people have about therapy:


To seek psychotherapy means that I am “crazy”.

There has been a long-standing stigma associated with psychotherapy. Fortunately, that stigma is beginning to change. A recent study conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA)* revealed that the stigma associated with therapy has decreased approximately by 50%. The term “crazy” is not a clinical term. However, to seek help does not imply that one is crazy. It simply means that you recognize you need help beyond yourself to address life’s problems. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)*, at least 33% of Adult Americans experience difficulty in which they need professional help. Contrary to popular opinion, those who are plagued with life’s stressors are fairly widespread, as in many other medical conditions. In fact, there is a shared link between the body and one’s emotions or stress.  In other words if you are ailing inside and you don't take care of it, it may transfer to symptoms to your body or vice versa.


I should be able to handle my own problems, otherwise I am weak or a wimp.

While it is true that some problems are handled effectively alone, there are times in which receiving help is more beneficial than struggling by oneself. For example, if you are feeling so burdened and inundated by life’s problem(s), this is a good indication that you need additional resources to help cope. This does not mean that you are weak, but rather you recognize your limitations. If one is not proficient in financial investments, you would consult a financial consultant; if one is not expert in interior design, you might seek the assistance of an interior decorator. Most people would not give two thoughts about the idea that seeking expertise of such professionals. Psychotherapy is not any different.​


To seek help means that everyone will know my personal business. 


Psychotherapy is confidential. Those who conduct psychotherapy are ethically obligated to keep the information you share confidential. A clinician has no right to share your personal business without your consent. Many providers are members of their respective professional agencies such as in the American Psychological Association (APA) which subscribes to a Code of Ethics which requires strict adherence to confidentiality. A violation of this ethic is considered a “cardinal sin”. Furthermore, therapy is private and you are not obliged to tell anyone regarding your sessions only if you desire. If you find a clinician who shares information that you disclose without your consent, you have a right to report that clinician to his or her respective board. The Board of Psychology takes this very seriously. There are a few exceptions to this: if you are a danger to yourself or someone else. Also, if I believe that a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person is being abused, I am required to report such abuse to a state protective agency. Finally, in some circumstances such as a child custody proceeding and legal matters in which your emotional condition is an important element, a judge may require my testimony or subpoena your clinical records if s/he determines that resolution of the issues necessitates it.


If I begin therapy, I will cry and lose control.

Once you begin the therapy process you might cry. However, most find it quite relieving and therapeutic to cry. Crying is a natural expression of a human emotion. Often it is essential to experience crying in order to feel joy and passion. It is a common fear that if one was to cry s/he would never be able to stop. However, I have not known anyone who continues to cry endlessly. This fear is more imagined than real. As far as losing control, the idea of therapy is to acquire tools that will help you cope and regain control of your life. Now, if that means you are a bit weepy, it is certainly a worthwhile goal in the process.


If I talk about how I feel, I will only feel worse.

Contrary to popular opinion, to avoid or deny your feelings makes the situation only worse. Individuals frequently complain of experiencing various emotions or feelings as they go through the therapy process. This actually is often a good indicator that you are beginning to address your feelings, thoughts, and behavior that contributes to the problem that you are seeking assistance. Attaining insight into your feelings and thoughts provides cues or information as to what you might want to do concerning a problem. The mind and body are interrelated. In other words frequently feelings that are neglected, ignored, or denied will result in a manifestation in one’s body. Yes, often in therapeutic process one often feels worst before feeling better. However, it is similar to one undergoing surgery. The surgery process is painful in and of itself, but over time with a successful surgery one feels better. Simply stated, one has to address the painful negative feelings in order to feel better. What is important to know however, that a good therapist will help you regulate your emotions so that you are not flooded by them.


Psychotherapy really doesn’t help.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)*, as well as a number of other research literature suggest that psychotherapy is quite effective in addressing a number of life issues and that most experience improvement in their everyday lives. In fact, research has demonstrated that seeking psychotherapy not only helps in addressing one’s overall emotional well being, but also can have important links to improving one’s physical health. Psychotherapy can be immensely helpful when confronted with major life’s decisions.


There is a convincing body of literature that purports that those who seek psychotherapy are far better than those with similar difficulties without psychotherapy. One study revealed that 50 percent showed marked improvement by the eighth session of psychotherapy, and 75% of individuals had shown marked progress by the end of six months.


Psychotherapy only brainwashes you or tells you what to do.

Many have the notion that going to therapy is a process in which they will receive advice and will be told what to do and thus their problems will be solved and they will live in bliss. A psychologist does not have the power to make one happy. My style of psychotherapy is rather collaborative. Psychotherapy is the process in which one talks to a psychologist regarding a life problem or issue. The psychologist assists individuals in gaining insight into their feelings and problems so that the individuals can begin to change behaviors and resolve problems themselves. Various tools may be offered as a way to assist the individual in resolving problems and conflict. Technical recommendations based on one’s expertise and training may be given to assist the patient, but not one’s personal opinion.


I don’t need psychotherapy; I have friends to talk to.

Friends or a strong support system albeit, family, friends, spiritual are an important source in managing a crisis. However, there are times when this may not be enough. Frequently, friends and family are not objective. Additionally, sometimes a support system may feel burdened and unable to provide the type of assistance that is required to get through a difficult situation. A psychologist’s role is to be objective and to serve as a nonbiased party to help you get through a life stressor. In addition, Psychologists are trained and are skilled in certain situations in which friends may not have the proper tools to assist one.


Psychotherapy is not worth the money.

Patients report that effective therapy is certainly worth the money. As a result of therapy, many lead happier and fulfilling lives. This translates to having satisfying relationships and careers. Some have reported that their salaries increased as a result of therapy and that they led happier relationships at home and at work. Attaining happiness and fulfillment are priceless. Furthermore, as forestated the mind is very much an integral part of the body. Not surprisingly, research reveals that with successful therapy this results in better physical health. More importantly, it is worth asking, “How much will it cost me if I don’t receive help?”​


Psychologists are able to read your mind.

Psychologists or any other mental health professional are not able to read one’s mind. A psychotherapist’s role is to help individuals understand their thoughts and feelings as a way of assisting them in order to begin the life change process. Perhaps, this myth originated from the idea of hypnosis. Even with hypnosis, the therapist is not able to read your mind. With hypnosis, the client should always give consent and be briefed concerning the process. Otherwise, the therapist is using the information gathered from the hypnotic process to manipulate you.

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