The real deal on psychotherapy.

Psychotherapy can be a helpful and fulfilling experience. Some people love therapy and feeling comforted knowing they have a space where they can fall apart; other people don’t like therapy and find it awkward and uncomfortable.

Nevertheless, therapy can be a deeply enriching experience where people feel support in working towards better understanding and inner peace in their relationships, jobs, and overall sense of self.

Unfortunately, there are some negative myths and stereotypes when it comes to therapy, and the people who lose out are often the ones who could benefit most. Here are some common obstacles that hold people back from reaching out for therapy:

If you go therapy, that means you’re “messed up”.

To struggle is to be human. Therapy is a safe space to address issues such as anxiety, depression, addiction, relationship problems, identity issues, family dysfunction, bereavement, career issues, trauma, and general life dissatisfaction. Choosing to explore these issues with a therapist does not connote failure; rather, it is indicative of a recognition that having someone guide you through your journey can be helpful and enriching. If you hire a personal trainer, does that mean you “failed” at exercising on your own?

If you go to couples therapy, that means your relationship is hopeless and beyond repair.

Guess what, happy couples go to therapy too! Relationships are difficult no matter how much you love each other, and being two distinct individuals means that you will inevitably have disagreements and bumps along the road. Every couple has their own sense of ‘we got this’, but sometimes things become too much to handle alone. In those cases, having a neutral, empathetic professional can be instrumental not only in helping the couple work through their issues together, but also in learning techniques to strengthen the relationship moving forward.

Therapists just kinda smile, nod, and ask how that makes you feel.

A good therapist is a highly trained professional who has spent years learning and practicing how to tailor therapy to meet each client’s particular needs. While a therapist should not be bossing you around or confronting you in a violating manner (think Good Will Hunting scene), a competent therapist may offer evidence-based suggestions that can be helpful in aiding the presenting issues. Some therapists are more vocal or directive during sessions than others; each therapist has their own style and finding someone whose style works well with your personality is essential in establishing a productive therapeutic alliance.

Therapy is for people who have no friends or family to talk to.

Having a support system of close friends and/or family is indeed a wonderful resource. But it’s not crazy to desire a space to explore vulnerabilities and insecurities without worrying about how it fits in line with the person everyone expects or hopes you to be.  It can be daunting to share parts of yourself with the people close to you because you don’t want to disappoint them, you worry how they will take in the information, or you’re concerned about it remaining private. Fortunately, boundaries are a key component of the therapeutic relationship; therapists are bound by HIPAA confidentiality laws that protect your privacy. That means that not only is it unethical for them to repeat to someone that you are in therapy, but they shouldn’t be writing on your Facebook wall, texting you casually, or asking you to pick up their kid from soccer practice.

Therapy is a lifelong project; you can never leave.

If you ever meet a therapist who tells you from day one that you need to be under their care forever, you probably shouldn’t stick with them. Therapy can be short-term, long-term or anything in between; many people go in and out of therapy over the years, depending on what’s going on in their lives and when they could use the extra support. Your therapist may share with entitled to get a second opinion for your own knowledge and reassurance. Working with a therapist entails a relationship that is focused on helping you achieve your own, chosen goals — not theirs — and you feeling a sense of voice and ownership over the process.  

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