6 Misconceptions and Myths About Therapy

These days, therapy has made its way off the couch and into mainstream society. Unfortunately, it is still plagued by myths and stigmas that prevent people from seeking help. If you're confused about the true nature of supportive therapy, learn the realities behind six common misconceptions.

Myth: Only crazy or unbalanced people need a therapist.

Reality: Even the most well-adjusted people experience emotional or psychological stress that can make day-to-day life difficult. Therapists have years of specialized training, experience and education that allow them to objectively recognize problematic behavior or thought patterns. Because it is grounded in confidentiality, the therapeutic relationship between patient and therapist opens the door for honest expressions that can lead to healing and improvement. If you feel lingering difficulties are keeping you from enjoying life to the fullest, a therapist can be a big help.

Myth: Going to therapy means I’m weak or flawed.

Reality: The majority of people in therapy are ordinary people coping with ordinary, everyday problems. Whether they are experiencing grief, adjusting to major life changes, improving relationships, processing anger or addressing core beliefs about body images, these people are not flawed. Many times, it takes great courage for people to seek therapy. Whatever their reasons, when people decide to seek help, they are expressing admirable awareness, courage and drive to improve their lives.

Myth: Therapy is endless and expensive.

Reality: While it's true that some people stay in therapy for decades, most accomplish their goals in a relatively short amount of time. According to a study appearing in the American Journal of Psychiatry, just under half of therapy treatments conclude after three to ten visits, while only 1 in 9 patients require more than 20 sessions. Many people also take advantage of therapy sporadically, seeking support only during significant emotional or psychological upheavals.

Myth: Therapists only listen while you vent.

Reality: While therapists do listen intently while patients describe issues, this is only the starting point. As they listen, they also gather relevant information on a person's background, along with the history of a problem. Sessions usually center on a collaborative, interactive process based on active engagement, dialogue and joint problem-solving. During therapy, people learn new coping skills they can use in real life. Therapists also help people set goals and identify improvements and setbacks.

Myth: Therapists blame all problems on childhood experiences.

Reality: While childhood experiences can have a significant impact on our development, they are not the sole focus of therapy. When appropriate, a therapist will help a patient explore significant events that happened early in life. In many cases, however, therapy will focus on the current problem or crisis without delving much into the past. The main goal is to help you cultivate coping techniques, while better understanding your feelings and perceptions. Through the course of therapy, you may come to realize that past events do play a role in your current problematic thoughts or behaviors. That said, this isn't the case for everyone.

Myth: Someone who doesn't know me can't help me.

Reality: Unfamiliarity is actually one of the big benefits of therapy. Trained therapists have no personal agenda with their patients. On the other hand, because people have so much history with friends and family, it's often difficult to get fair, impartial feedback and support. When a person doesn't know you, he or she is able to provide fresh perspectives and challenges. Many people are also much more willing to open up to therapists, since they have no "stake" or active role in the person's social sphere.

Seeking Support

It's natural for a person to feel apprehensive about sharing his or her feelings with a stranger. Many people worry they will be judged, dissected or analyzed during therapy sessions. No one likes the idea of their lives being put under a microscope; however, the reality of therapy centers on supportive, intelligent guidance that helps people adopt new, healthy patterns of thought and behavior. If you've discounted therapy for any reason, try scheduling a free consultation, so you can experience the pleasant realities for yourself.