Life throws a lot of unforeseen challenges at us every single day, and it’s not possible for each one of us to handle each one on our own. Therapy provides not only nonjudgmental support but helps us to see a new perspective and hear ideas we might not have come up on our own. In fact, therapy helps to increase our self-awareness and provides us with emotional tools that we can use whenever we need them at any point of our life.
In this article let us try to crush some myths regarding seeing a therapist when your journey of life is not smooth.
1. MYTH: Only crazy people go to psychotherapy.
REALITY: Everyone of us, at some stage of our life, come across difficult situations. May it be a change of job, performing well in studies, eating disorders, anxiety, stress, divorce, depression, demands of parenting, addiction, financial problems, the death of a family member etc.
A therapist helps you to overcome these problems in an objective way as he/she is trained to do so. Let us try to understand it in this way- if any of your physical problems persist, making your everyday life difficult like a constant back pain then you see a specialist, similarly when you have a mental problem for a long time like continuous sadness, anxiety etc. you go to a therapist. A good mental health leads to a better physical health. Even people suffering from medical illnesses like diabetes, cancer or any other chronic illness sometimes need a therapist to make their everyday life more fulfilling.
2. MYTH: Talking to family members or friends is just as effective as going to a therapist.
REALITY: If you have a supportive network of your family and friends it’s great. But sometimes during our tough and trying times in life, we need a specialist to help us pull through. Let us understand some of the benefits of seeing a therapist.
- Therapists have a specialised education and training so they take an objective view of your complex problem.
- Techniques used by the therapist are developed after years of research, it is just not talking and listening.
- A therapist is not a part of your life, so you can confide in a therapist more easily without fear of him/her being judgmental. The therapeutic relationship is based on confidentiality. In fact, people often tell things they have never revealed to anyone else and benefitted from this self-revelation.
- Friends and relatives may favour your perspective and support your point of view which leads to getting further stuck in negatives of your situation.
3. MYTH: You can get better on your own if you just try hard enough and keep a positive attitude in life.
REALITY: It is good to have a positive attitude in life and solve your own problems. But sometimes the problems can be complex like there may be some biological imbalance which makes it difficult to heal yourself after trying for a considerable period of time.
Starting therapy under these circumstances does not mean that you have failed, it only means you need a specialist to guide you to make your life fulfilling. Just like if you are not able to repair your car it doesn’t mean you have failed it means you need a specialist for that particular damage.in fact, having the courage to reach out and admit you need help is a sign of strength rather than weakness and the first step towards feeling better.
4. MYTH: Therapists just listen, so why pay someone to listen to you complain?
REALITY: Listening is just a part of psychotherapy. By listening to you and asking simple questions therapist helps you to view your problem objectively. Therapist and you have to work together to identify the cause and you are the one, of course with the full support of your therapist, helping yourself to come out of your complex situation.
The therapist may give you some homework assignments between sessions so that you can practice new skills that will enhance your life in the long run.
5. MYTH: A therapist will just blame all your problems on your parents or your childhood experiences.
REALITY: A therapist will like to know more about your family background or childhood experiences or significant events in your life but this is only a part of psychotherapy. It helps your therapist to better understand your feelings, your perceptions, your current coping strategies to help you make positive changes in your present and future.
But this is not necessary, in some cases, the therapist will choose to focus mainly on the current problem and help you develop skills that will change your current thoughts or behaviours leading to your better mental health.
6. MYTH: You’ll need to stay in psychotherapy for many years or even the rest of your life.
REALITY: psychotherapy is a time bound process. The aim of your therapist is not to keep you as a client but to empower you to function better on your own to not only solve the present crises but also any problems in your future on your own.
But it is important to remember that everyone moves at a different pace during psychotherapy so it depends on the individual, how long it takes to lead a normal or fulfilling life. Your therapist, along with you will develop a plan of action. But remember, your active contribution is of utmost importance. The therapist is not there to instruct you but to guide you in your journey to get better.
7. MYTH: Going to a therapist means I am weak.
REALITY: In fact, realising that you have a problem and deciding to take active help to make your life better and more fulfilling is a sign of utmost strength. To explore your inner self, to overcome every fear you are facing, coming to terms with your inner self, explore your own limitations takes a lot of courage. In fact, if society can get rid of the misconception that people who need help are weak, a lot more lives could be saved. A lot of broken people could be fixed.
8. MYTH: Spending your money on therapy is a waste.
REALITY: We all spend our money on things we prioritise in our life at that moment. If we want to improve our physique, we hire a personal trainer, go regularly to a gym, eat right to help improve our physical fitness. Similarly, the money you spend on a therapist is an investment in having greater control over one’s life, increased confidence and self-esteem, healthier relationships, personal and occupational success and in general, an increased quality of life.
9. MYTH: Therapy means we have to be on medication which makes us sleepy.
REALITY: Therapy provides people with the coping and problem-solving skills needed to live a healthier and happier life. But in severe mental problems medication is necessary and is given by a psychiatrist and not a therapist. These medications help to stabilise any chemical imbalance in the body and should always be taken as prescribed by a psychiatrist. And an important thing to be kept in mind while on medication is never stop taking the medication by yourself. The psychiatrist will help you to gradually reduce the dose as required and then medication is completely stopped.
10. MYTH: Counselling is only for problems that are severe.
REALITY: In fact, most people who initiate counselling do not have a serious mental illness. They have serious life challenges or are going through a difficult patch in their life which they are not able to cope with at present. Most individuals seek counselling for everyday issues like relationship problems, stress, anxiety, phobias, symptoms of depression etc. in fact, attending counselling when problems are mild to moderate can prevent problems from becoming severe.
11. MYTH: A counsellor does not know me so can’t help me.
REALITY: This is one of the most important reasons why counselling can be successful. Since a counsellor is not a part of your day to day life so he/she is impartial, non-judgmental and not biased. Family and friends tell you what you should do but a therapist encourages and challenges you to find the answers that are right for your life.
12. MYTH: You have to be near a divorce to qualify for marriage counselling.
REALITY: Every relationship goes through some ups and downs. Same is with a marriage. Marriage counselling can be beneficial for couples who suffer from mild, moderate or severe problems. Couples who want to attain greater marital happiness and satisfaction can also benefit a great deal from therapy. Many married couples avoid counselling until a divorce seems imminent.
13. MYTH: Counselling will change who I am forever.
REALITY: Therapy helps to increase self-awareness and provides emotional tools that you can use whenever you need them. Counselling will not require you to make changes you don’t like, that you are not ready for or that goes against your beliefs and values. If you are unhappy with the changes that are happening, tell your counsellor. Counsellors want to help you change in ways that are beneficial to your life.
14. MYTH: My problems are not going to be fixed by just sitting and talking. It is a waste of time.
REALITY: It is true that only talking to a counsellor is not going to change your situation, but nevertheless it is a starting point. When you admit, even to yourself that you have a problem, it helps to make the problem an object separate from your inner being and now it can be talked in an objective way. Also when you vent your feelings and express opinions as someone listens supportively, asking clarifying questions, it is healing by itself.
It is my belief that psychotherapy can improve your mental and emotional self, improves healing and provides an opportunity to work towards achieving one, true potential. The benefits of psychotherapy can include having greater control over one’s life, increased confidence and self-esteem, healthier relationships, personal and occupational success and in general, an increased quality of life.