TRUTH: Therapy is based in developing a relationship where you can feel safe to share your emotional experiences and life challenges. Many people seek out a therapist because they are struggling with stress, changes in life, or relationships. These are not necessarily issues of mental illness, and yet therapy can be extremely beneficial in providing essential support and a space to be heard without judgement. Often, we are concerned about “burdening” our friends and family members with our day to day stresses and worries. Working with a therapist allows you to share the weight of life with another person who is equipped to carry the load with you and help you figure out how to navigate life in a more manageable way.
MYTH: I don’t need a therapist if I’ve got friends and family.
TRUTH: Some people suggest that working with a therapist is like hiring a friend, and why would you do that if you already have friends? A therapist is there to support you like a friend or family member might, but they are also highly skilled in guiding you in progressing toward your goals, improving your quality of life and growing as a person. Unlike the other people you may have in your life, a therapist provides unbiased and non-judgmental feedback. A therapist is solely concerned with what’s in your best interest. They will not give you advice or tell you what to do, which is what our friends often do, sometimes leading you to feel conflicted if you don’t agree with their suggestions. A therapist does not judge you for the choices you make and cares about you unconditionally. They also carry hope for you when you can’t see it for yourself.
MYTH: If I start therapy now, I will be going for years to come.
TRUTH: When you start and end with your therapist is your choice. It is your therapist’s job to be guided by your goals for therapy and to follow your lead, while also challenging you a bit and pushing you out of your comfort zone once in a while in order to help you grow. Most people spend a few months working with their therapist intensely to resolve the immediate issues that brought you in initially. After that, you will have likely formed a great relationship with your therapist, so you might take a break or drop down to only checking in once every couple of months. The great part about having established this relationship is that you can always return at any time if things come up in life that are difficult.
MYTH: A therapist gets paid to care about me, but I am sure I’d just be another number to her.
TRUTH: Therapists get into this work because they are deeply passionate about working with people in a meaningful and impactful way. Therapists are generally very empathic and compassionate people who genuinely care about and like their clients. Therapists do think about their clients outside of session because they truly matter to them. Many therapists spend much time when not with clients learning more ways to help, researching resources, consulting with other therapists about how to be most effective, and hoping that their clients are doing well in between sessions and after they have stopped coming to sessions. Our clients leave lasting impressions on our lives, too.
MYTH: I had a bad experience with therapy in the past, so clearly it isn’t for me.
TRUTH: Finding the right therapist is like trying on shoes. Some might look great on the rack, but when you try them on, they pinch your toes, or just don’t fit quite right. Because the success of therapy is largely dependent upon a good relationship, it is essential to find a therapist with whom you feel like you “click” well. You’ll need to actually like your therapist if you’re going to building a trusting relationship and share details about your life that you might not have ever shared with anyone else. So, if you’ve tried therapy before and it did not work out, it left a bad taste in your mouth, or you did not find it helpful, give it another chance before you write all of us therapists off! Just like with people you meet in other parts of your life, you are not going to get along with everyone, and that’s ok. The right therapist for you is out there, it just might take a few tries before you find someone you feel like “gets” you and with whom you can relate. Therapy provides a sense of belonging, and in order to experience that benefit, you’ll need to find a therapist you like and by whom you feel accepted.