We often allow our judgments or preconceived notions to be a major factor in making decisions. Sometimes, this is OK and completely appropriate. For instance, if I'm standing on the side of a busy road and see a car speeding towards me, that judgment telling me that I'm in danger would save my life- by allowing me to make the decision to jump out of the way. We need to be able to make judgments! Sometimes, however, that tendency to judge or mistake preconceived notions for facts, can prevent us from experiencing the good things in life. That tendency can also prevent us from making decisions that would actually be beneficial for us.
With this in mind, there a many misconceptions about therapy that may prevent people from making the decision to start therapy. Media portrayals of or what we've heard from others about what therapy is like might stop us from making that decision. Today we're going to take a look at some of these misconceptions!
1. Going to therapy means I'm weak or can't handle my problems.
There is actually strength in seeking help. There is a tendency to interchange the words "weakness" and "fearful". When we say something makes us weak, we are actually saying we are fearful that we will be perceived that way. With that being said, it is important to normalize therapy and reduce the stigma. The reality is that there are tons of people who chose to go to therapy who lead very normal, successful lives. Choosing therapy does not mean you can't handle your problems, it means that you're READY to process through some of them. The therapist is not responsible to "fixing" you, just like a doctor does not cure you from an illness. Many times, is the patient who takes the medication, who endures the chemotherapy, who changes his or her lifestyle. It is up to the patient to make those decisions to get better. Similar in therapy, it is the patient who is taking the active steps to resolves some of these issues.
2. Therapy is too expensive.
Therapy can be pretty costly, there is no denying that. Think of it as preventative maintenance though. Oil changes for your vehicle can be costly, but they sure are less expensive than the costs of NOT getting your oil changed. The costs of NOT going to therapy can be detrimental, especially if it begins to impede on your job performance or social life.
In addition to this, there are several ways to find affordable therapy. Talking to your insurance provider to find a therapist in-network, could certainly reduce costs. Also, some companies offer an EAP (Employee Assistance Program), allowing you take advantage of a limited amount of therapy (often times it is limited to 3 or 4 sessions). Another way to reduce costs is to research therapists who offer a sliding scale based on your income. Last, you can explore tele-health options. There are several new, non-traditional therapy platforms out there nowadays that offer video-conferencing or telephonic therapy, which may be offered at a reduced cost. It is important to note to make sure you are thorough in that research, however!
3. Going to therapy means I'm just dwelling on my problems.
There are TONS of different types of therapy out there, some of which are completely solution-focused. Although it is important to understand your past situations and how they effect you in the present, therapy can be focused on there here and now, if that's your preference. All in all though, therapy is to offer RESOLUTION to problems. In order to resolve the problems, it is important to acknowledge theme.
4. I don't need to pay someone to tell me what to do or listen to me complain.
You are absolutely right, you should not pay someone to tell you what to do. It's actually considered pretty unethical for a therapist to give you his or her personal advice. It is the job of the therapist to help you understand what YOU are choosing to do. It is the therapist's job to listen, but this should be an active process. Sure, the therapist might make a suggestion, but this suggestion should be based on what you have said or already tried. There is a common misconception that is often portrayed of the therapist who only nods, occasionally writes in a notebook, and even less occasionally says "Interesting, tell me how you feel". Therapists are trained to remain engaged and active throughout the session.
5. I can get the same help for free, with self-help books or the internet.
Ah, good old self-help books. There are some great, quality self-help books out there that I would recommend everyone read. But there are also some pretty "fluffy" books that are of no therapeutic value. How are you to know which is which? But the big difference between self-help books and therapy is the therapy is an ACTIVE process, with actual communication with a high trained individual. There is power in being able to process with an actual person rather than read something in a book. There's also that sense of accountability that you cannot get from self-help books.
As far as the internet, we all know the internet can only be taken at face value. Just like we tell our children, the internet can be a dangerous place and it is easy to misinterpret or mistake something for truth. However, the same thing goes for the internet, that reading material online is far different than the active process that is therapy.
Obviously, this is not an all inclusive list of the common misconceptions of therapy. If you think of others that you would like to be shared, please let me know! It is important to dispel these common misconceptions, as the decision to go to therapy may be life changing, or life saving, for someone!
-Aimee Yasin, LPC-MHSP