You may have heard inaccurate portrayals of therapy from pop culture and entertainment media if you’ve never been to therapy. In fairness, this is to present therapies in a way so that it’s more entertaining. But, in addition to these misleading portrayals and the long history of stigma against therapy (and mental health in general), there are common myths that prevent people from seeking treatment.
With that in mind, let’s debunk 10 common misconceptions regarding therapy so that you can get the help that you need.
1. People who seek psychotherapy are weak, mentally ill, or crazy.
A Onepoll survey revealed that more than half (47%) of respondents believe seeking therapy represents weakness. However, only a quarter (27%) have never seen a therapist, which suggests mental health care is more common than previously thought.
“The belief that people who go for psychotherapy are weak, mentally ill, or crazy is a common, yet one of the biggest misconceptions about psychotherapy,” Bryan Robinson, Ph.D. writes for Forbes. “Nowadays, if you seek treatment, it’s viewed as a sign of resourcefulness.” In fact, many of the same problems that people deal with on a daily basis are encountered by therapy clients: relationships, self-doubt, insecurity, self-esteem, work/life stress, transitions in life, depression, and anxiety.
“The preferred designation for the person in therapy is ‘client,’ not ‘patient,’ for that very reason,” adds Robinson. “Over my 25 years of experience, I’ve often said that the folks I treat in therapy are mentally healthier than some people walking the streets who fear the stigma of mental health counseling.”
2. I don’t need therapy. I have friends and family.
Having friends and family as support is extremely important. However, there will be times when you may not be able to talk about everything with them. As an example, because you don't want to hurt their feelings, you might have to be careful how you express your anger towards your spouse, child, or best friend.
Almost all of the relationships you have are reciprocal, which means you will both talk about your own concerns. If you are in need of support, it's also possible that you will hear opinions from friends and family that may not be all that helpful. Meeting a therapist allows you to express yourself fully and without editing your feelings. Also, the session won't (and shouldn't!) turn into your therapist discussing their own problems.
3. Once I start therapy, I will have to go forever.
The majority of therapies are short-term. In fact, therapy sessions usually last less than 10 sessions. Occasionally, more is required.
It’s also common for therapy to last 50 minutes every week. If necessary, booster sessions can be scheduled later if desired.
4. I should be able to fix things on my own. I was raised to be independent.
It’s very common for people to consider not being able to fix the problems they encounter as "failing." A psychologist, however, can help you identify what biochemical or behavioral are behind your difficulties.
In short, if you face a problem, ask an expert for guidance.
5. A therapist will make me discuss things I don't want to talk about.
Having an open conversation with a stranger can be intimidating to many people. And, that is a valid concern. After all, it’s highly unlikely that you would share your life story with someone you just met. So why would you share your private thoughts with a therapist?
This is even more problematic when someone has trauma from the past that they haven't yet dealt with. Therapy is often avoided because they, understandably, do not want to confront these painful memories.
There is some good news, however. Despite his or her experience, an experienced therapist will not force you to discuss things you don't want to. When you're just starting out, this is especially true. The process of therapy is about building trust, and confronting deep issues can take many sessions.
Your treatment is ultimately in your hands. Rest assured that the process will work if you are open to it and have set reasonable boundaries.
6. Therapists give advice.
Some individuals may be discouraged to seek help if they feel like they will be told what they "should" do in therapy. Most psychotherapists refrain from offering concrete "life advice" to their clients as they cannot read minds.
As a result, therapists guide their clients' journey to make healthier, more satisfying, and more productive choices based on their training and expertise.
7. It’s just a place for people to complain.
Most people think a therapist is just someone they can "vent" their problems to. In therapy, it's important to talk about issues that bother you, but it never ends there. You can work through your problems with the help of a therapist who offers a unique perspective. They can also help you identify underlying patterns or biases leading to the discovery of new ways to solve problems.
And, don’t be surprised if they assign you homework in between sessions. That gives you an opportunity to try a new behavior or way of thinking differently. During follow-up appointments with your therapist, you can discuss what helped or where you continuing to struggle.
8. Therapists are all New Age-y, warm fuzzy, ‘you’re good enough, smart enough…’ cheerleader type.
“Most therapists are encouraging and empathic, and some therapy models emphasize this warm support more than others, but certainly not all therapy works this way,” says clinical psychologist Ryan Howes, M.D. In fact, patients are also challenged and educated by their therapists as. “Cheerleading therapy makes for good TV, but not always good therapy.”
9. Therapy isn’t confidential.
As therapists, we understand how difficult it is to be vulnerable. But, when it comes to therapy, it’s essential to be honest about personal things.
To give you some peace of mind, in accordance with our ethics and law, we must maintain confidentiality. It’s essential for us to discuss confidentiality at the start of therapy because we can't ask you to be vulnerable if you don't trust your therapist.
Keep in mind, though, that certain circumstances cannot be kept confidential. But your therapist should discuss this with you from the outset so you know exactly what to expect.
10. Therapy is too expensive.
The cost of therapy prevents many people from seeking treatment. On average, prices range from $65 per hour to $250 or more. It is typical to pay between $100 and $200 per session in most parts of the country. Therapy costs can be affected by a variety of factors, including:
Training of the therapist. Therapists with a high level of training and experience usually charge more.
Location of therapy. Therapy bills are higher in large metropolitan areas and in regions where the cost of living is high.
The reputation of the therapist. A well-known therapist who is in high demand usually charges more.
Coverage under an insurance policy. Therapy that is covered by insurance usually costs less.
Session length. An extended session usually means a client will pay more.
Specialization. Therapists who specialize in highly specialized fields or treat unusual conditions tend to charge more for treatments.
The best way for many people to fund their therapy is through insurance. If you want to know which mental health professionals are in-network with your insurer, call them. Healthcare.gov has a marketplace for people without insurance, and Medicaid programs may be able to cover you.
Assistance programs for employees can also cover therapy costs. A few therapists may also offer sliding-scale rates. When interviewing therapists, ask them about this option. You may also be able to pay for therapy over time if your therapist offers payment plans.
Another option is teletherapy, which tends to be more affordable. Or, you may be able to secure free or low-cost therapy through a college or university, or community health clinic.