Patients may resist seeing a therapist. Popular misconceptions about therapy play into this decision. The popular image of a therapist taking notes and asking “How does that make you feel?” may rub some people the wrong way. Therapy can be a valuable part of treatment for mental illness. It can also help people who are not diagnosed as mentally ill surmount problems in their lives, from relationship issues to difficulties at work or school.
Here are five misconceptions about therapy that may prevent some people from seeking help, followed by realistic assessments of these ideas.
1. Therapists Just Listen
While some therapy models may place an emphasis on the therapist simply listening while the patient tells stories about his or her life, many others provide concrete solutions and advice. Cognitive behavioral therapy, for example, provides different ways for patients to look at their problems and gives them concrete steps to work toward feeling better. Some patients may respond positively to the method of telling stories, but therapy can be much more than this.
2. Therapy Lasts Forever
While some people may believe that therapy means a long-term relationship with your provider, that doesn’t have to be the case. Short term therapy models are focused on helping the patient solve a particular problem. The therapist can lead the patient to a more positive pattern of thoughts and can suggest solutions for the patients’ problems. Patients who want a long-term relationship with a provider can certainly have it, but many therapy professionals will accept when a patient tells them that they are ready to move on from therapy.
3. Therapy is Only For “Serious” Problems
There is a popular misconception that if you are in therapy, you must have a severe problem. Therapists are able to help people with any level of emotional difficulty. Therapists can help children learn to stand up for themselves at school. They can help families have better relationships. They can also help people with difficult career situations. Therapy is also appropriate for people with severe mental illness, but most patients who see therapists are there for less severe difficulties.
4. A Therapist is Just a Paid Friend
People may believe that paying a therapist is similar to having a friend with whom to share your difficulties. This is quite far from the truth. A therapist is skilled at guiding a person’s thoughts and feelings toward a more healthy state of mind, while a friend is just there to listen. A therapist shouldn’t be thought of as a friend, though the patient may have cordial feelings toward them.
Having a trusted friend to share difficulties with should not be substituted for having a trained therapist. Friends are not able to deal with the same kinds of issues that a therapist is practiced with. When you rely on your friends to provide “therapy,” you may damage your relationship with them. It is better to let a professional handle serious problems.
5. You Don’t Need a Therapist if You Think Positive Thoughts
While you may be able to surmount minor problems with the aid of positive thinking, a mental condition or adjustment problem is not going to go away just because you change your attitude. Mental illness is insidious and can interfere with every aspect of your life. It is okay to need professional help to work their way out of these difficulties.
Getting Past Your Misconceptions
When you get past your mistaken ideas about therapy, you may be much more likely to give it a try. It’s not true that a therapist is there only to listen to your problems. You will not be in therapy forever unless you want to be. Therapists do treat serious mental illness, but you don’t have to be severely mentally ill to benefit from therapy. A therapist is more than a friend, and relying on your friends to solve your problems is counterproductive. Simply thinking positive thoughts is not enough to solve most people’s problems.
When you consider going into therapy, do so with the benefits in mind. You may be able to change your outlook on life and go forward in a much more positive manner.