8 Misconceptions About Psychological Therapy
As psychology has developed through the decades, its perception in the general public has changed as well – and from the very beginning, many of the most common parts of the profession have been misconstrued. And now, as it becomes less stigmatized and more prevalent in forms of pop culture, those misconceptions nevertheless continue – ranging from the harmless, such as the perpetual presence of a chaise longue, to the downright malicious. So today, we’d like to set the record straight regarding a few usual misconceptions about psychological therapy.
1. All therapy is the same. Just like no two guitar players have the same style, there are plenty of differences among psychologists. We’re using the same tools and basic set of rules, but each of us is trained with different methodologies, filtered through different theoretical orientations and applications. For example, post-modern vs. cognitive behavioural therapy would give two vastly different ways of conceptualizing a given problem. It’s definitely not a “one-size-fits-all” kind of profession.
2. I’m not crazy – I don’t need it. Regardless of mental health status, everyone benefits from having someone neutral help navigate their problems. It reduces stress, gives you new perspectives, manifests in better physical health, and can make you aware of the your emotional state in a way you never imagined. Therapy is for everyone!
3. I don’t want to be put on “meds”. As psychologists, pharmaceutical treatments are our last resort. The brain is a delicate and fascinating machine, and can respond just as well to talking and gaining new viewpoints as it does to any chemical process. Only if the lens of talk therapy is inadequate do we initiate a conversation with a person’s doctor about intervention by way of medication. We’re not here to push any pills on you.
4. I don’t want to burden someone with my problems. We don’t consider ourselves to be the bearer of our patients’ problems. At the core, even if you think you’re venting to us, all we are doing is talking through those issues so we can help you find solutions. You can bring your problems here, and we’ll help you navigate through them, but we never consider it to be simply “venting”.
5. It’s just talking – it won’t help. Like in the point above, we are not just talking - we guide our patients towards solutions through the use of reflective questions and a neutral viewpoint. This helps see problems from a variety of angles, and ultimately helps provide more options for solutions. Discussing problems is the first step toward overcoming them; it creates a tangibility that we can deal with.
6. I already have a good support system. You may have the best friends and family in the world, but chances are good that they aren’t licensed therapists. They will do the best they can to help, but it may not be helpful in the long-term for you, despite their best intentions. A strong support system is just one component of good mental health.
7. It’s too expensive and not worth it. After high school, psychologists generally take over a dozen additional years of school and training in order to get their degrees, certifications, and credentials. That is a lot of additional expertise to pay for – but as medical professionals, most of the time the expense is covered by insurance. Even for the people we see who pay out of pocket, we have yet to encounter anyone who feels like they have wasted their time or their dollars.
8. A therapist is just a paid friend, not a real professional. Our office is not a haven for venting or gossip; there’s much more to our work than that. Friends are wonderful and necessary, but their role in supporting you is much different than a therapist’s. We are very goal-oriented, and always focused on ways to improve the lives of the people we see, whereas friends might not be comfortable imposing on your personal life like that.
To sum it all up? Don’t believe everything you see or hear when it comes to psychological therapy, because people are complicated – and so is their mental health. What we really excel at is using vast amounts of training, insight-oriented questions, and critical thinking to help our patients with their problems, even if the onus still lies on them at the end of the day. What works for one person (like running to burn off stress and anxiety) won’t for someone else (who likes to listen to music and draw).
We are advisors, listeners, guides, and reflectors, always in pursuit of a better tomorrow. And if this whole article still didn’t help you decide if you’d like to give it a try, well…we’re always here when you’re ready to talk!