Perspectives on therapy- and what it says about you as a person– have such a range. There are those who talk about going to therapy the way they’ll talk about going to the gym, to those who nervously look over their shoulder as they enter the office suit, and everything in between. And then there are those who can’t make the phone call, can’t make the appointment, can’t continue going, because going to therapy carries a stigma for them.
Here are some common myths that come up related to therapy:
Therapists just kinda smile, nod, and ask how that makes you feel.
A good therapist is a licensed trained professional who has spent years learning and practicing how to tailor therapy to meet clients where they’re at. Some therapists are more vocal or interactive during sessions than others; some hang back more. No, most therapists are not like Robin Williams in “Good Will Hunting” (great scene, just not your average therapy). Every therapist has their own style and finding someone whose style works well with your needs and personality is essential in establishing a productive alliance. Know that it’s normal to “try out” a therapist and meet with them for a consultation to see if it feels like a good fit; there is no commitment.
If you go to couples therapy, that means your relationship is doomed.
Guess what, happy couples go to therapy too! Nope, love does not conquer all; relationships present challenges no matter how much you love each other. Many couples have their own sense of situations where ‘we got this’, but sometimes there are issues that go in circles without any improvement or resolution over the years. Effective couples therapy is not about figuring who’s wrong or right or where fault lies; it’s about becoming more deeply connected and making the “we” stronger, which then makes it easier to face life stresses both within and outside the relationship.
Therapy is for people who have no friends or family to talk to.
Having a support system of close friends and family is indeed a wonderful resource. But it’s not crazy to desire a space to explore vulnerabilities and insecurities without worrying about how it fits in line with the person everyone knows, expects or hopes you to be. It can be daunting to share parts of yourself with the people close to you because you don’t want to disappoint them, you worry how they will take in the information, or you’re concerned about it remaining private. Many of my clients share that they appreciate having an outside third party who has a more objective perspective to bounce things off of and process feelings.
Therapy is a lifelong project; you can never leave.
Working with a therapist entails a relationship that is focused on helping you achieve your own chosen goals, not theirs, and you feeling a sense of voice and ownership over the process. Therapy can be short-term, long-term or anything in between; many people go in and out of therapy over the years, depending on what’s going on in their lives and when they could use the extra support. Therapy should include check-in’s on how the client feels about the progress and feedback should feel welcome.
If you go therapy, that means you’re “messed up”.
To struggle is to be human. Everyone deals with issues, no matter how great their Facebook posts look. To “need” a therapist does not connote failure; rather, it is indicative of a recognition that having someone guide you through your journey can be helpful and make it less of a burden to bear. If you hire a personal trainer, it doesn’t mean you failed at exercising on your own. Sure, you could read books on exercise and ask around for tips, but it can be helpful to have support in your goals, provide feedback, spot you in your form, and help you feel more confident and empowered to exercise on your own. Therapy can be the same way; it’s a good workout for your emotional muscle.