When you feel physically ill, you probably have no problem making an appointment with your doctor. In some cases, loved ones may even encourage you to make an appointment in order to improve your health. But, when it comes to mental illness, most people hesitate to speak to a therapist, let alone admit to others that they need to address their mental health.
While this varies from person to person, it may be because of the stigma surrounding mental health and the misconceptions regarding therapy. But, let’s change that by debunking the following eight misconceptions so that you can get the right help when you need it.
1. Psychologists, counselors, mental health nurses, and psychiatrists are all the same thing.
“There are different kinds of mental health professionals, just as there are many different kinds of doctors,” explains Katja Bart in Thought Catalog. “You wouldn’t ask a dermatologist to treat your prostate – that is not the area they specialize in.”
“Titles vary depending on where you live and have varying degrees of qualification and professional responsibility.” For example, there are psychologists who specialize in working with children or couples. There are counselors who only provide crisis response. And, only certain psychiatrists are permitted to prescribe medication and have hospital privileges.
If you’re considering therapy, it’s important to know these differences so that you can find the therapist for your specific needs.
2. Therapy is only for those with serious issues.
You do not have to be diagnosed with a psychological disorder. You don’t need to wait until you experience a crisis either. In fact, plenty of well-adjusted individuals speak to therapists to help them cope with emotional or psychological stress.
“People go to therapy to cope with disorders, relationships, stress, grief, to figure out who they are and learn to live life to the fullest,” says Ryan Howes, Ph.D. “There’s no shame in wanting a better life.”
3. You can just talk to friends and family.
“Social support is definitely an influential aspect of mental health,” writes Shainna Ali Ph.D., LMHC. “I spend a lot of time helping clients create support systems. But therapy doesn’t end once we build those connections. Our loved ones are not trained professionals. Psychotherapists are specifically trained in the art of listening, problem-solving, and displaying nonjudgmental, unbiased attitudes.”
“Perhaps your loved one is a therapist. But due to the difficulty of being unbiased and balanced, therapists should not provide services to their loved ones,” adds Ali. “Therefore, even if you have a psychotherapist in your life, they really shouldn’t be serving in that role for you. On the other hand, such handy professionals can be excellent resources if you’re seeking a referral.
4. Therapy is too expensive.
Seeing a therapist can be expensive. But, it may not be as much as you believe. In fact, the average therapy session costs $75-150 an hour. However, you may also want to check with your insurance provider to see if they cover these sessions. If not, there are some affordable options like free or low-income mental health services or sliding scale therapists.
Depending on the circumstances, you could also turn to therapy apps like Talkspace and Betterhelp, crisis hotlines, and local support groups.
5. Going to therapy means that you’re weak.
This could not be further from the truth. In fact, it takes courage to admit that you want to speak with a therapist and follow through with it.
The reality is that most people in therapy are not flawed at all. They’re just people who are experiencing grief, having difficulty adjusting to a change, or just wanting to improve their lives.
6. Therapy is endless.
While there are some individuals who will require lifelong therapy, this isn’t the norm. The idea behind therapy is not to keep you coming back for years to come. Instead, therapy is meant for you to share what’s on your mind and learn how to handle future unexpected events.
For 50 percent of patients, this can be done in just 15-20 sessions. However, as noted by the American Psychological Association, “patients and therapists sometimes prefer to continue treatment over longer periods (e.g., 20 to 30 sessions over six months), to achieve more complete symptom remission and to feel confident in the skills needed to maintain treatment gains.”
7. You’ll be forced to take medication.
Not all problems can be fixed with medication, such as emotional stress. With that in mind, just because you’re in therapy doesn’t mean that you’ll be prescribed medication. In fact, talk therapy is often the main treatment method. And, you can only be written a prescription by a psychiatrist and not all psychologists, counselors, and/or social workers.
8. Therapy will solve all of your problems.
As John M. Grohol, Psy.D. perfectly explains it, “psychotherapy isn’t some magical elixir.” For example, therapy can not cure you of a personality disorder, change your troubled childhood, or speed up the grieving process. Instead, therapy “can help mitigate some of the worst features of the problem,” interpret the past, and help when you can not get over your loss.