Debunking 8 Myths About Seeking Mental Health Therapy
Debunk the common myths about psychotherapy and therapists that are difficult to break.
1. Myth: Therapy is only for people with severe mental illness.
Fact: People seek psychotherapy to address a multitude of issues, including, but not limited to depression, anxiety and life transitions (ex. changes in job, marital/family difficulties or coping with chronic illness). Many people look to therapy as a preventative measure. Annual check-ups can help give you guidance and recommendations on how to prevent further health issues. For example, a primary care physician might advise you to increase physical activity to help lower your cholesterol. In a similar fashion, psychologists or therapists assess your symptoms and offer treatment recommendations for relief.
2. Myth: I must be weak if I need to see a psychologist.
Fact: Seeking help for a problem shows signs of both bravery and resourcefulness. Think about a time in your life where you learned something new, like riding a bike for the first time or kicking your first soccer ball. You have to continually practice to strengthen your abilities. If you were to fall or break a leg, you wouldn’t have second thoughts about heading to the Emergency Room. Remember, mental health issues involve how you are thinking, feeling, and behaving. When you break down all of these components, your brain has a very strong role to play.
3. Myth: Therapy is unnecessary when I can just talk to good friends or family.
Fact: While support from family and friends is great, remember they are not your mental health professionals. A psychologist is an outsider in your life who is not meant to replace friendships. Like your medical professionals, psychologists are highly-trained, and have spent years learning and practicing how to diagnose and treat cognitive, emotional and behavioral issues. Unlike sharing with friends or family members, you are able to say anything to your therapist without fear of offending or hurting another’s feelings.
4. Myth: Therapy is too expensive.
Fact: Cost prohibits many people from seeking therapy. An expert in California, Ryan Howes, Ph.D. says, “Therapy prices range from free in some community clinics to almost- lawyer hourly rates in the nation’s top private practices.” You may look for a clinic setting which offers a sliding fee based on your income.
It’s helpful to put things in perspective. If you consider the gains you could make with an investment in your mental health, it makes sense to invest in working on the areas of your life that are preventing you from living a full and satisfied life at the top of your potential.
5. Myth: A therapist can only help if they’ve experienced the same thing as me.
Fact: Many times people believe if someone hasn’t lived through what they are experiencing, they won’t be able to understand or help solve their problem. The truth is no one can feel exactly what you do. This is what makes each person so individual. Understanding someone does not mean you need to share the same diagnosis. Clinical psychologists have education, training and experience to understand and treat problems. If an experienced clinician knows they are unable to best address your concerns, they certainly can offer to refer you to someone better suited.
6. Myth: I should be able to fix things on my own. I was raised to be independent.
Fact: Many times people equate not being able to fix their own problems as “failing.” A psychologist can help you recognize what is biochemical or behavioral that may be responsible for the difficulties you are facing. When you have a problem, seek an expert’s advice.
7. Myth: Psychologists just listen to people vent—why would I pay someone to do that?
Fact: A psychologist is there to listen and work at understanding where you are struggling in life. The role of your psychologist goes well beyond this point. At the onset of treatment, a psychologist will ask many questions in an effort to understand your background and circumstances which have led to the problem areas as you see and feel them. Then you will work collaboratively with your psychologist on treatment and goal development. Don’t be surprised if your psychologist assigns homework because you need to learn new strategies. Homework gives you an opportunity to try a new behavior or way of thinking differently. When following up with your psychologist, you can discuss what helped or if you are still struggling.
8. Myth: If I begin therapy, I will be stuck in it for the rest of my life!
Fact: Just like the fact each of us has a unique fingerprint. We can all agree that everyone is different; likewise, we all have varying levels of strengths and difficulties in life. Psychologists want to help you build on your strengths and minimize your weaknesses to become a mentally healthy individual.