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Debunking 12 Myths About Therapy

A main reason people do not commit to receiving help is because of common misunderstandings of therapy. Read on to debunk 12 myths about therapy.

1. Only “crazy” or “mental” people need to talk to therapists. I haven’t lost my mind. I’m not having a nervous breakdown, so I don’t need a therapist.

Truth: You don’t have to be “crazy” to participate in therapy. The vast majority of outpatient clients are not delusional, hearing voices, or seeing hallucinations. More often, therapy clients are seeking help to deal with the effects of current or long-term stressors, or they wish to change patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving that don’t work anymore.

2. Talking to a therapist is for people who are weak, or who don’t have enough will power. We should solve our own problems.

Truth: It takes courage to pursue real change, not weakness. It is also a wise use of resources. The wise, not the weak, seek assistance when they need it. Will power or commitment, decision, and self-discipline are indeed part of the change process. However, the best learners often learn from others, and therapists can be similar to coaches and tutors to help people make desired changes.

3. All you do in therapy talk about your past relationship with your parents.

Truth: Discussions about one’s family of origin often do occur, especially if it impacts the current situation. These discussions evolve naturally, such as when reviewing the roots of a particular attitude or behavioral pattern. The focus of therapy is usually on improving current functioning and relieving emotional suffering.

4. Once I start therapy, I will have to go forever.

Truth: Most therapy is short-term. Most outpatient therapy is under 10 sessions. Some conditions require more. Often therapy is held weekly for 50 minutes. Sessions can be spread out if desired with a few booster sessions scheduled later if needed.

5. Therapists will encourage me to do things against my religious beliefs.

Truth: Therapists are taught to value the religious beliefs and culture of clients. If you are not comfortable with the approach of a particular therapist, ask for a referral.

6. I’ll be referred to groups where I’ll have to confess things I don’t want to ever talk about.

Truth: You can attend groups if you wish. Group participation can be a powerful agent of change and is often less expensive. If you participate, you get to choose what you disclose in a group.

7. Talking won’t help.

Truth: In general, around 2/3 of outpatient therapy clients evidence a positive response to counseling.

8. I tried therapy and it didn’t help.

Truth: If symptoms persist, it may be wise to entertain additional avenues of intervention and to review the factors that could impact the client’s experience. For example, these could include: personal motivation and readiness for change; circumstances (such as social/emotional/spiritual factors, employment contributions, and health including an evaluation for psychoactive medications); and the relationship with the therapist. Different therapists have different approaches. You may get different results with a different therapist.

9. I’m not depressed; I’ve just got the blues.

Truth: There is a difference between a clinical depression and “the blues.” If one is suffering from a true depressive episode, it impacts ones social and occupational functioning. Depression is often recurrent, so it would be wise to consider participating in treatment to reduce current and future suffering.

10. Depression is the result of sin. I just need to repent.

Truth: The client gets to make this judgment, aided by ecclesiastical sources as desired. Depression may also occur with complicated grieving, unmet expectations, loss, a response to external circumstances, or unreasonable attitudes. Therapy works in congruence with the client’s religious commitments and beliefs.

11. I just need to snap out of it!

Truth: Taking charge of one’s emotional life is part of getting better. Sometimes, however, we don’t know what to do. Sometimes others can help us figure out what to do. Sometimes we need an emotionally safe place to process and resolve the issues that maintain the problem.

12. What if anyone finds out? I’ll be ruined!

Truth: Therapy is confidential. No one will find out unless you tell them. Therapists can explain the conditions under which they have to disclose information to others (such as if someone is in danger, a child is being abused, or a court order).