Therapy is becoming increasingly more common, especially the use of online therapy services, to deal with issues related to fallout from COVID-19, such as increased anxiety, love and relationship issues, depression and family tensions. However, there are some misleading misunderstandings about therapy that might make you rethink reaching out, when you should in fact be taking that first step instead.
Here I’ve broken down 10 common misconceptions about therapy while explaining what you should actually expect:
1. Therapy is for crazy people
This is probably the biggest myth about therapy. This preconceived notion that therapy is for people who are “crazy,” or some other negative stereotype, is just not the case. While some may choose therapy to address a mental health diagnosis, others do so for a chance to problem solve a certain issue, work on a relationship, or talk about something from the past. Therapy is a reflective process and it allows you to implement better coping techniques, learn how to make better life choices, and to share your thoughts and feelings with someone who can be honest and objective.
2. Problems are not serious enough
Feeling that your issues are not important enough to seek out a therapist couldn’t be further from the truth. Almost everyone can benefit from therapy at some point in their lives and most people don’t go because of a huge trauma or crisis. Instead, things like loss, not sleeping well, a breakup or everyday anxieties are reasons that most people end up seeking out a therapist in the first place. Once you realize that you are not alone in your journey, you can feel your progress and your ability to allow counseling to be successful. This is a very freeing process.
3. It is too expensive
Many therapists take insurance and a client is left with just the responsibility of a small co-pay for each session. Granted, not everyone has insurance, so there might be other alternatives. You should ask about a sliding scale. Another option is to explore whether you qualify for a federal qualified option or if you can find a training institute where interns or new therapists are working. Another excellent option is online therapy or telehealth. This possibility is almost always cheaper than face-to-face therapy. In this scenario, you can do virtual visits for a weekly or monthly fee, which also includes access to communicating with your therapist in between sessions.
4. I can’t connect to the therapist
There is often a stereotype that therapists are older white men or women who talk down to their clients and think they have all the answers. These common misconceptions come from movies or television and are very misleading. There are therapists of all ages, nationalities, and races; those who concentrate in working with teens or adults; and those who specialize in certain areas and populations. The field is becoming more diverse each day, so don’t let a stereotype be a reason that you opt out of going to therapy when you are ready.
5. I don’t have the time
Most sessions last 45 minutes to an hour. If you think about that amount of time in the context of your week and recognize it is focused on healing, there is really no excuse not to make it work. Many therapists have hours that are flexible to people’s schedules and not finding a therapist that can work around yours is not a good excuse. Additionally, if time really is an issue, teletherapy is an alternative and those hours are often day and night. This alleviates the commute time or other concerns that someone might have.
6. Others will find out
One of the biggest factors that lead people to avoid therapy is because they worry that other people will find out. This should no longer be a concern. Therapy is confidential* and your therapist is required to keep things between client and therapist. This is legal and must be upheld. And to be honest, if you do decide that you want to share the news that you have decided to start therapy, you should feel proud and embrace it. Being confident in your decision to work on yourself is something to be celebrated, not shamed. Oftentimes, once someone begins to trust in their therapist and the process, they do feel more inclined to talk about it with others.
*The only time that therapy is not confidential is when a therapist believes that a client or someone in his/her/their life is in danger.
7. I have friends
Friends are great confidantes. You share secrets and laughter and there is nothing better than a solid group of friends for good times and bad. However, a therapeutic relationship is much different than a friendship. Therapists are trained, and they are objective and invested in the change process. Friends can be biased and sometimes even judgmental. They are not qualified to know what to say in certain difficult situations and may not always be there when times get hard. You can change therapists, fire a therapist, and decide you are done (termination) when the time is right, but in many cases, friendships last much longer and it is why they should be protected.
8. I take medication
Many people are under the impression that if they are prescribed medication for a mental health diagnosis that they will automatically feel better. While in many cases medication is an excellent way to treat many mental health conditions, adding therapy to your regimen can be much more successful. The combination of medication and therapy is stronger than just medication alone. Therapy can provide problem-solving skills, coping skills, and many other ways to manage day-to-day life.
9. I tried therapy before
Finding a therapist is not one-stop shopping. If you try one and don’t connect then you need to find one that is a good fit. You need a good connection, someone you can trust, and this is not always going to happen the first or even the second time. Choosing a therapist that is a good match is critical and you should get recommendations, look at reviews, and attend a session and decide if the person is right for you. If you don't feel a strong connection after a few sessions, then it is absolutely fine to find another therapist. But please don’t give up or not try again based on either a negative situation or bad fit from the past. Maybe you just haven’t found the right kind of therapy for you yet.
10. Therapy is too painful
Many people think facing their insecurities, their past, or whatever is bothering them is difficult and prefer to live as if everything is fine. They worry that if they begin the process, they might no longer be able to control or live in denial anymore. In truth, a good therapist should know how far to push a client and how to work at an appropriate pace. This is something the client also learns in the process and is a healthy tool to develop. Fear can be very powerful and keep people away from taking significant changes in their lives. Don’t let that happen to you.
The Time Is Now
There is no time like the present to make your first appointment, ask for a referral, or just start the process by reaching out to find a therapist near you, or alternatively seek help from an online therapist.