Myths About Therapy

I’ve been in therapy off and on since I was twelve, and for the most part, it’s been a positive experience all around. I’ve had therapists with different specialties and degrees, seen what works and what doesn’t for me, and come to the conclusion that just about everyone would benefit from therapy. Here, I’ve compiled some myths about therapy, both what I’ve believed myself and what I've heard from others. Hopefully, it helps you consider whether or not getting into therapy might benefit you.

It’s only for sick people/severely mentally ill people.

Frankly, I don’t know very many people who wouldn’t/couldn’t benefit from therapy. In a therapy situation, an objective expert comes in and helps you figure out a better way to live your life so that you are happy and satisfied with the way it’s going. There’s not really a downside. From my own experience, I’ve gotten just as much (if not more) out of therapy when i’m doing well as when i’m struggling emotionally/mentally. Just about everyone benefits from good therapy. It’s like a massage for your emotions.

If I start therapy, I’ll have to do it forever.

Nope. Lots of people go to therapy during transitions or seasons of particular stress. That type of therapy is super helpful and can definitely make the difference between a successful life change and a less-successful one. And, of course, there’s obvious ones like marriage or grief counseling, where there’s a goal in the minds of everyone involved. Personally, therapy is helpful all the time, and so I go all the time. That’s not true for everyone, and if you’re considering therapy, there’s nothing wrong with setting a time limit (say, three months) and then checking in to see if you need to continue going.

My therapist is judging me.

No. They undergo extensive training not to judge people. They are trying to understand, and that means they may ask questions that are uncomfortable. However, in the end, they want you to understand you better, and they want that understanding to lead to positive change. Trust me, your therapist isn’t making judgements about you. Every therapist I’ve known (both as a patient and as an acquaintance) has taken patient confidentiality extremely seriously. Your story isn’t at risk and they aren’t here to judge.

Every therapist is a good fit for every patient.

If you don’t vibe well with your therapist, that just means you don’t vibe well with your therapist. It’s not a reflection on you or on them (barring strange circumstances). It just means that there’s something about them that makes it hard for you to connect and relate, and therefore to express yourself and get a good therapy experience. The patient/therapist relationship is just that: a relationship. I’ve had therapists I’ve clicked with and those I didn’t, and every single first visit, I knew that I was allowed to say “I don’t feel comfortable and I’d like to see someone else,” and the office would arrange for me to meet with someone else. There’s freedom. Use it.

Your therapist should be exactly like you.

This is the flip side to the above myth: therapists are people and they can help you whether or not you have much in common on paper. Most of my therapists come from incredibly different experiences than I do. My favorite therapist I had in college was an African-American woman who used a wheelchair. I knew from the moment I walked in that we didn’t come from the same place, and it meant that I was able to be super honest about where I was coming from. The truth is, no two people are ever coming from exactly the same place. If you don’t relate to your therapist on the surface, that doesn’t mean that the therapy relationship won’t be super fruitful.

If you attend church, you don’t need therapy.

No. Go to church. Go to therapy. They are not mutually exclusive. Pastors don’t have to remain objective; therapists do. Pastors aren’t really there to help you figure you out; that’s not their job and it shouldn’t be. If you are religious, just let your therapist know and find one who is comfortable with integrating your faith into the experience. My therapist knows I believe in prayer to Jesus — I believe that is genuinely effective. Therefore, when I feel helpless, she reminds me that I do have something I can actually do. Pastors are great and therapists are great. You’ll benefit from seeing both. On this same point, there’s nothing like an objective expert to give you objective, expert advice. Parents aren’t objective. Mentors aren’t objective. Friends aren’t objective. Spouses aren’t objective. Pastors aren’t objective. They love you, deeply and sincerely, and they also have personal goals they’d like to see happen for you (and again, these are generally positive). However, your therapist’s goal is to help you make goals and keep them: they simply serve a different role, and one that is needed.

Therapy is a no-effort activity.

Therapy is work. You have to be willing to open up and dig around and see things about yourself that you would rather not be true, and face up to what that means. It’s work worth doing. When you go to a session, and when you leave, try to schedule time to be alone or to ponder. If you’re carpooling or immediately spending time with family, ask them to respect the space around the work you’ve just done. Knowing that you have time to express and then decompress will make it easier to do the work. Like I said, it’s work worth doing.

Photo by Jonathan Percy on Unsplash

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