Therapy - it doesn't look like the movies!
Exploding common myths about therapy
Maybe you’ve made the hard decision to come to therapy – you’ve realized that what therapy offers – a safe, compassionate and intelligent way to process life – is what you need right now. But maybe you have some doubts, too ...
And some of those doubts probably stem from some common misconceptions and myths about therapy. Lots of them come from the way that therapists and other mental health professionals are depicted in movies and television. Let me debunk these for you.
No one should be afraid of seeking help with us at Sanctuary Christian Counseling or with any therapist because they believe one of these damaging myths.
Here are some things that a just NOT TRUE about therapy:
Only “crazy’ people go to therapy. In fact, no one is diagnosed today as “crazy,” but even if that were the case, therapy is where they should be. HOWEVER, there are a LOT of people in therapy who are far from crazy and who are there to help themselves live better lives, process past or current trauma or griefs, deal with anxiety or depression, or understand themselves, their relationships and the world better. Being in therapy shows resourcefulness, not craziness.
If you need a therapist, you are weak. This is far from true. In fact, dealing with your issues is one of the most courageous and strong things anyone can do. NOT dealing with your issues makes you weak. Most people in therapy deal with the same stuff that all of us do, they just do it with reflection, safety and input from others.
The therapist will sit behind a desk and talk to you as you lay on a couch. This myth may come from stories of Sigmund Freud, who allegedly urged his patients to lay on couches to talk to him and it’s been perpetuated because it makes a fun picture in the media. In fact, most therapists and their clients sit in a living-room-like setting on comfortable chairs – or, increasingly, opposite them on a screen in comforting surroundings. Most therapists try hard to make their clients feel safe, warm and comfortable.
The therapist will tell you what to do. I find many of my clients actually want this, but this is not a therapist’s role. Our job is to help YOU find out what YOU want to do, not to direct your lives the way we think they should go. We do have some specialized knowledge and education, but, if we do our job well, we can assist you in making your own choices, setting your own goals and making the changes that will enhance your own lives.
Over time, the therapist and client become best friends. Although it is true that over time therapists and their clients come to care about each other, it is ethically wrong for a therapist to become friends with a current (or even past) client. We can’t be effective if our own emotions get involved, the way they would if we were talking to a good friend. And it’s a violation of the power dynamic between therapists and their clients for a therapist to break this boundary and engage in a friendship. The therapist/client relationship must remain confidential and professional. There are a number of different ethical standards depending on the licensure of the therapist, but most of them say this relationship is not ok until at least five years after therapy ends – many say it is never appropriate.
Therapy is mostly talk and not much else. While it’s true that therapy is talk, that’s not all it is. There are a number of current interventions and modalities that require both parties to engage in goal setting that leads to collaborative problem-solving using interventions that are not all verbal. There is a lot more to it than just the talking component.
Therapists can prescribe mental health medications. Most cannot – because one needs to be a medical doctor or something closely equivalent to prescribe medications of any type, and most therapists are not doctors. Most therapists are licensed professional counselors, licensed clinical social workers, licensed marriage and family therapists or something along those lines, and, while they have a great deal of training and education, only rarely are they also medical doctors. They can, however, help you figure out if medication is a good choice for you, and recommend you see a doctor to obtain that.
Everyone feels better after just one session with a therapist and most therapy only takes one or two sessions to resolve an issue. If only this were as true in real life as it is on TV! In reality, the first session is nearly always a fact-finding one, and, while you might feel better for having told your story, you generally haven’t done any therapeutic long-term work at this point. It is the rare issue that can be resolved that quickly – if it could, therapy would hardly be necessary. In reality, therapy can be difficult, thoughtful and time-consuming, but is nearly always worth it.
Therapists always blame your childhood for everything. While many issues do have their roots in your childhood experiences and trauma, most therapists understand that is not the whole story. And some don’t think it’s even part of the solution. How they view your family of origin depends on the clinical bent of the therapist, though nearly all think t
here is some value to considering it. But it certainly is not the be-all/end-all scapegoat that movies and television would lead you to believe.
There are likely many more myths that scare people and portray therapy as something it’s not. If you know of one (or more) drop me a line (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll write about that one, or at least let you know personally my take on it.
But please don’t let these myths keep you from getting the help that can make your life wonderful!
At Sanctuary Christian Counseling we help grieving individuals, distressed kids and teens and couples in conflict find peace, solutions and connection.
Sanctuary Christian Counseling
9974 Molly Pitcher Highway, Suite 4
Shippensburg, PA 17257