There could be a whole host of reasons why you’re delaying seeking therapy. Maybe you, like many of us, lead a busy life and are not sure where you’ll find the time for a weekly session. Perhaps you’re concerned about how much it’s going to cost and if it’ll be worth the investment. It could be that you are afraid that painful emotions are going to be stirred up that you’d rather not face just yet. Or, you might have heard some rumors about what therapy is and you’re skeptical that it’s for you.
Yes, these really are tough barriers to overcome. And, maybe you’re just not ready. That’s okay, too. It can take a lot of courage to seek help and can be difficult to motivate yourself to do something new. But let’s address those pesky rumors, at least. That’s one thing we can do together today to break down a roadblock.
Myth #1: Going to Therapy Means There’s Something Wrong with Me.
While some people still think there’s a stigma surrounding the idea of going to therapy, this attitude is on the decline. In fact, therapy can be a source of pride that you are caring for yourself and growing. Look at going to counseling as taking care of your mental health, just like you might see a doctor on a regular basis for preventative maintenance.
While people with severe psychoses are often under the care of a mental health professional, the typical client in a private practice setting is, more likely, someone looking for growth, assistance with issues, or support with difficult feelings and emotions. Of course, everyone is different and people seek therapy for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it’s for long-lasting trauma and more severe issues. Sometimes it’s for extra support while going through a life transition like a divorce or death of a loved one. Other times, it can be to improve communication skills and enhance your relationship with others. All of these issues may be addressed by the same client throughout the course of his or her life.
Myth #2: Therapy means talking about how my parents messed me up.
While therapists are generally well-versed in various techniques, every counselor is different in which ways they conceptualize their work. Some therapists may prefer to focus attention on the past in order to identify and work with family of origin patterns that can help identify some of the thought processes today. For example, have you ever assumed things are “right” just because that’s how you grew up, but you’ve never given much thought to why or challenged these thoughts? Looking at the past can give us clues and hints to aid us in the present and, thereby, improve our future. On the other side of the spectrum, some therapists might not choose to spend a lot of time in session looking back through time. The bulk of their focus might be in the “here and now.” Therapy is such a personalized experience, however, that most therapists are able to adjust to the needs of the client and display flexibility in their approach. In any case, the good news is that you, as the client, are ultimately in control of your own therapy. While it might be appropriate at some point to gently challenge your comfort level, you can choose what to work on now and what to leave for later.
Myth #3: Therapy is someone giving me advice.
Giving advice usually doesn’t tend to work so well. In fact, it can put us on the defensive and turn us off. After all, who likes to be told what to do? There might be exceptions to this if there were an acute crisis where the therapist had to be more directive than usual to keep you safe. However, therapy at its best is a collaborative effort with both the therapist and the client working towards a healthier tomorrow. Ultimately, the therapist can’t do the work for you; you are the one responsible for making positive changes and doing the hard work of introspection.
Myth #4: Therapy is only useful in times of crisis.
An acute event can be the “straw that breaks the camel’s back” and lead someone to seek counseling. This personal crisis could be a couple filing for divorce, the death of a family member, or the loss of a job, for example. Therapy in these times of intense pain can provide the support that you need to help you cope to the best of your abilities. Periods of great emotional distress, however, are not the only times that therapy can be of help. Often, when a person seeks counseling during a calmer period in their life, he or she is able to delve deeper into self-awareness. When we are not forced to focus on just getting through the day, we have more freedom to explore other issues that might have been on the backburner. You can look at it like cleaning your house; your most pressing needs might be to do dishes, the vacuuming and the laundry. When those are taken care of you have time for the extras like polishing the silver.
The decision to seek the help of a therapist is a very personal choice. Taking the steps to concentrate on your personal growth and mental health is commendable. Hopefully, now, myths about counseling won’t stand in your way.