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Therapy Myths vs Truths

Therapy and Mental Health in general have become more popular discussion topics in America

today. Yet there is still so much stigma and misunderstandings around it all. Some terms or

ideas have become so generalized that it takes away from the important work and

understanding of the field. Keeping it light, we’d like to share/debunk some common myths

about therapy.

MYTH: Only “crazy” or “mental” people need to talk to therapists.

TRUTH: You don’t have to be “crazy” to participate in therapy. The vast majority of outpatient

clients are not delusional, hearing voices, or seeing hallucinations. More often, therapy clients

are seeking help to deal with the effects of current or long-term stressors, or they wish to

change patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving that don’t work anymore.

MYTH: Talking to a therapist is for people who are weak, or who don’t have enough will power. We should solve our own problems.

TRUTH: It takes courage and strength to pursue real change and ask for help in doing so, not

weakness. Therapists are professionals at interventions for change and exploration.

Understanding yourself and building skills to create your desired change is the farthest thing

from weakness.

MYTH: All you do in therapy talk about your past relationship with your parents.

TRUTH: Discussions about one’s family of origin often do occur, especially if it impacts the

current situation. These discussions evolve naturally, such as when reviewing the roots of a

particular attitude or behavioral pattern. The focus of therapy is usually on improving current

functioning and relieving emotional suffering that one is experiencing in the present.

MYTH: Once I start therapy, I will have to go forever.

TRUTH: Most therapy is short-term. Most outpatient therapy is under 10 sessions. Some

conditions require more. Often therapy is held weekly for 45-60 minutes. Sessions can be

spread out if desired with a few booster sessions scheduled later if needed. The goal is to not

be a life-time client. It is to build the skills and process the events necessary for healing and

growth so that you can continue to do so on your own.

MYTH: Therapists will encourage me to do things against my religious beliefs.

TRUTH: Therapists are taught to value the religious beliefs and culture of clients. It is important

to discuss your religion, personal beliefs and values as it arises in conversation or pertains to

certain parts of treatment. There are also therapists specializing in treating individuals of

certain religious backgrounds. As always, if you are not comfortable with the approach of a

particular therapist, ask for a referral. This goes for more than religion. Sometimes we must

‘shop around’ until we find a therapist that aligns with what we are looking for. You cannot

base therapy off of one experience with one provider.

MYTH: I’ll be referred to groups where I’ll have to confess things I don’t want to ever talk about.

TRUTH: You can attend groups if you wish. Group participation can be a powerful agent of

change and is often less expensive. If you participate, you get to choose what you disclose in a

group. You are never forced to do anything or share anything you do not want to or you are not

ready for. Good therapists might challenge you to dig deeper on certain topics or reflect further

but you will never be forced into anything.

MYTH: Talking won’t help.

TRUTH: In general, around 2/3 of outpatient therapy clients evidence a positive response to

counseling. More is going on than talking. You are processing, sharing, reflecting, learning new

skills and implementing new practices with a professional who has gone to 5+ years of school

and has completed many other forms of criteria to be able to use specific evidence-based

therapeutic interventions while talking with you. You can ask your provider what models they

use and interventions. Often times, when looking up a provider online, their topics or

therapeutic treatments or specializations will be shared.

MYTH: I tried therapy and it didn’t help.

TRUTH: If symptoms persist, it may be wise to entertain additional avenues of intervention and

to review the factors that could impact the client’s experience. For example, these could

include: personal motivation and readiness for change; circumstances (such as

social/emotional/spiritual factors, employment contributions, and health including an

evaluation for psychoactive medications); and the relationship with the therapist. Different

therapists have different approaches. You may get different results with a different therapist.

MYTH: I’m not depressed; I’ve just got the blues.

TRUTH: There is a difference between a clinical depression and “the blues.” If one is suffering

from a true depressive episode, it impacts ones social and occupational functioning. Depression

is often recurrent, so it would be wise to consider participating in treatment to reduce current

and future suffering.

MYTH: Depression is the result of sin. I just need to repent.

TRUTH: The client gets to make this judgment, aided by ecclesiastical sources as desired.

Depression may also occur with complicated grieving, unmet expectations, loss, a response to

external circumstances, or unreasonable attitudes. Therapy works in congruence with the

client’s religious commitments and beliefs.

MYTH: I just need to snap out of it!

TRUTH: Taking charge of one’s emotional life is part of getting better. Sometimes, however, we

don’t know what to do. Sometimes others can help us figure out what to do. Sometimes we

need an emotionally safe place to process and resolve the issues that maintain the problem.

MYTH: What if anyone finds out? I’ll be ruined!

TRUTH: Therapy is confidential. No one will find out unless you tell them. Therapists can explain

the conditions under which they have to disclose information to others (such as if someone is in

danger, a child is being abused, or a court order).

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