1. Your therapist is there to give you advice – Most people believe that your therapist will tell you what decisions you should make in your life and why. This could not be further from the truth, most people have friends to help them make the hard decisions in life, whether you want their advice or not. If your therapist attempts to give you advice then they are setting you up to become dependent on them and less capable of making decisions for yourself in the future. Rather, a therapist at the least is meant to help you generate a list of options for yourself and guide you to a decision or an action that you have chosen for yourself. At best, they will help you make the evolution to the type of person that you would like to become.
2. I have to trust my therapist and tell them my whole life story immediately – You DO NOT have to trust your therapist immediately. Reluctance to hold back initially is healthy and your therapist does not expect you to tell them everything on day one. Trust and rapport is something that is developed over time, and as you naturally begin feeling more comfortable in therapy, you will naturally divulge more information when the time is right.
3. Therapists Don’t Make Mistakes – Therapists are human – just like everyone else, and as a result we occasionally offer solutions or potentially cause emotional harm when it is not intended. A good therapist will not abandon you when things get dicey. When things get tough and emotions get raw is exactly one of the reasons why therapists went to school. They WILL be equipped to help you through these times.
4. I have to spend several years in therapy to make any progress – Many people believe that therapy is something that never ends. On average, most people see a therapist for 6 sessions on a weekly basis. Other people who may need to see a therapist for longer average anywhere from 12-16 sessions. How quickly someone makes progress is entirely up to how much time they are willing to devote to themselves and how honest they are willing to be with themselves and their therapist. The more honest you are with yourself, the less time you will need to correct whatever is going wrong in your life. Some people may also visit a therapist at different points in their life, and this is okay!
5. Therapy is expensive – How expensive something is to a person can definitely vary from person to person, but therapy does not necessarily have to be expensive. Most clients of therapy pay their co-pay for their insurance, and this is all. Many people spend $20-$40 on cigarettes or eating out. From my viewpoint, your mental and emotional well-being is worth making a few temporary adjustments in your life. If you do not have insurance, many therapists charge on a sliding scale that is affordable for you. Another lesser known fact is that many communities will offer free or greatly reduced counseling services. Check your local 211 directory to find and take advantage of some of these programs.
6. I should fix my problems myself, or I should just suck it up; other people have it worse – If you are struggling with problems in your life, sometimes an outsider’s perspective is something that can be very beneficial because you may have not known that there were other options or different ways of looking at things. Also, depending on what you’re struggling with, it may actually be a result of a chemical imbalance in your body that medications and/or counseling is necessary to fix. A therapist can offer you information and referrals to a psychiatrist if it is indeed a chemical imbalance in the body and can help you learn how to cope with the emotional ups and downs. Finally- we are human beings that are social by nature, sometimes just talking about problems helps! Talking about your problems doesn’t make you weak, rather there is great strength in being vulnerable.
If any of these misconceptions about therapy or therapists are holding you back from going to therapy, then hopefully clearing these up has given you the courage to create time for yourself, do something for yourself, and has given you the permission to talk about something that is shameful, embarrassing, or that the rest of society is not ready or willing to hear.