I’m often amazed at what I hear people say about therapy when they have never engaged in it. I recognize that they learn about it by watching TV and movies and take as truth what people have shared about their experiences seeing a psychotherapist. I understand why they might think as they do, but that doesn’t mean that their view is accurate. Here are three myths I’ve heard in my three decades as a clinician:
- Myth #1: I must be really messed up if I need therapy.
The idea that reaching out for mental health help means there’s something gravely wrong with you misses the point of therapy entirely. It isn’t about how serious your problems are, but about how to get help to resolve them. Does it matter if your tire is flat with a nail stuck in it or whether it came off the rim? Not really. You still need to get a new tire or call AAA. Therapy is for the walking well or walking wounded, as they’re called, as well as for people who have major mental health issues. Perhaps you’re seeking an objective opinion, but one with more credibility than a response from a friend, relative or Dear Abbie. Maybe you need to get something off your chest and there’s no one to do this with, so you choose someone who’s a professional listener.
- Myth #2: Therapists will simply give you advice.
Let me assure you that we are well trained to do the opposite. Occasionally, I may ask a client if it’s okay to make a suggestion or even share some wisdom, but generally therapists steer clear of offering advice. Why? Because of the value of exploring your problems so that you can learn from the process and come up with the best answers for you. Someone who comes to see me because they’ve been in an abusive relationship for a long time already knows that it’s probably a good idea to leave, but needs guidance and support in making that happen.
- Myth #3: If you start in therapy, you’ll never leave.
You may choose analysis which takes a long time, Brief Treatment, Solution-focused Therapy, or Rapid Resolution Therapy which are meant to be brief and effective. Or you may prefer insight-oriented therapy or many other kinds. There is no right type or length of treatment for you and many people attend for a while, then stop, then resume or they go for years or decades without it, then have a few sessions. Most therapists want you to feel better as quickly as possible while also assuring that you’ve resolved issues sufficiently that they don’t keep returning. Therapists generally don’t want to keep you around just because you’re a source of income. If you think that, mistrust and fearing being used could be one of your problems. Forget the myths and try out therapy for yourself, especially if you’ve been unable to resolve your eating problems for good.