Myths about Counselling/Psychotherapy
If you’re considering any counselling or therapy to help you achieve your goals for the New Year ahead, these myths may help you decide how to proceed.
1. My therapist will know what I’m thinking/they can read my mind.
Although, counselling and psychotherapy is often connected with exploring some of our deepest emotions and experiences, your therapist will only be aware of these if you tell them! Counsellors, therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists cannot read minds! They work mainly on what you disclose to them as well their subtle observations of your behaviour. For example, someone who is discussing something very painful may behave in a way that shows that recalling this experience is hard for them; hence they may sit with their arms crossed, turning away from the therapist and looking at the floor! If the therapist acknowledges to the person that they detect how difficult this is for them to talk about, this is not a case of them reading minds but simply an observation of the person’s behaviour
- Lie down on the sofa and let’s discuss your childhood!
One of the more common misconceptions of therapy is that your therapist will ask you to lie down on the sofa and discuss your childhood while they analyse your every word and come to the conclusion that your parents must be at fault. The reality is that in most modern therapy settings, both the client and the therapist will sit facing one another and while in some cases childhood issues maybe relevant more often it is about looking at your thoughts, feelings and behaviours in your current everyday life rather than uprooting aspects of the past. That said, in some therapies your past is given more focus than other therapies and so it is important to discuss with your therapist whether you are comfortable doing this and choosing a therapy that suits you and your needs.
- Therapy can go on for years!
When looking at how long you may need in therapy, it is important to take into account your own individual situation and what your personal goals are from therapy. This conversation usually takes place in your first session and can be discussed through with your therapist. You can discuss your concerns with your therapist who can help advice of the best length of therapy in light of your needs. Regardless of which length or type of therapy you choose, you will have the option to end therapy if you do not feel you are achieving or making progress with you goals.
- Therapy just isn’t as effective as medication!
The reality in this ongoing debate is that utilising the benefits of both of these treatments will yield the most positive results. Both therapy and medication have their benefits and their disadvantages and it is therefore important to take into account the individual and their specific needs when considering which form of treatment will bring about positive change. It is important to note, however, that medication is not necessarily the gold standard of treatment for all types of human problems. For some issues such as depression and anxiety, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has shown to be as (and in some cases more) effective than traditional antidepressants. Consequently, therapy has shown itself to be just as effective and long lasting in treating mental health issues as medication.
- Money Talks – My therapist is only interested because they are getting paid!
Although it is easy to see how this misconception has taken hold (therapy has been known to be very expensive) the reality is that there are plenty of occupations that your therapist could have picked which would pay a lot more money. Those who choose a career in counselling, psychotherapy, psychology or psychiatry are generally driven by a want to help those around them. Some of your therapists will have experienced to a lesser or more extent some of the issues you are seeking help for and will want to utilise that learning to help others going through similar experiences. Other therapists may have a theoretical interest in human problems and will want to extend that theoretical interest into practical support. Either way, your therapist will sit in front of you with a genuine interest in helping you overcome your problems and not simply because they are paid to be there.
- Therapy is only for those who can’t deal with their problems and are weak/Therapy is just for “crazy” people.
Some of the more damaging misconceptions are centred on the thoughts that therapy is simply for those who are too weak to “handle” the situations they find themselves in or alternatively therapy is only designed for those who have been diagnosed with a psychological disorder. These thoughts are simply not true. There are many reasons why someone would seek counselling or psychotherapy. Relationships, stress, grief, jobs, trauma, money, appearance, friends, drugs, anger, depression, anxiety, weight, smoking cessation etc – the list is endless when we think of the issues that face us as human beings and the issues of which we might gain benefit in dealing with by talking them through with someone else. By seeking support with these problems you are taking a proactive and courageous step towards seeking a happier and more fulfilling existence – and this is nothing to be ashamed of!
- Therapy will quickly fix all of my problems!
While it is true that therapy has proven very effective in helping individuals lead happier lives, therapy is not about providing a quick fix! Your therapist is not there to solve all of your problems but rather to help guide and support you to gain insight and understanding into your situation. Therapy is about empowering you to make your own decisions which are best for you in your circumstances. If your therapist gave you all the answers to your problems, how would you cope when your therapist wasn’t there? It’s about devoting the time, the care and the self-reflection to better understand the life you lead and to develop the skills useful in facing the difficulties live throws at us.
- Talking to someone who doesn’t know me won’t help and they might judge me!
One of the brilliant aspects of therapy is that your therapist does not know you personally and that’s one of the main ways in which they can help. This allows them to be neutral, objective and non-judgmental and allows them to bring a fresh approach to the issue you are facing. While our friends and loved ones can provide enormous support sometimes it can be difficult to be completely honest for fear of offending them or fear that they may innocently tell others of your problems. During therapy you are talking through your problems in a safe and confidential environment with a trained professional who has spent years learning and practicing their trade. The sessions are devoted to you and to hearing of your problem.
Hopefully, you have now gained a more realistic view of what therapy may be like and how it can help an enormous amount of people from all walks of life overcome an enormous amount of problems.