It is not uncommon to have some people’s first appointments with me go a little like this:
“I’m not sure why I am here. I don’t think I really need therapy but my (mom, dad, sibling, friend) suggested it so I figured, why not?”
When I ask them why they think they do not need therapy, I hear some common misconceptions. What I explain to them is therapy, like many other professions has stereotypes that are not always necessarily true. Here are some common misconceptions about therapy and how I typically respond to them.
Therapy is for “crazy” and or weak people.
- This simply is just not true. For one thing, individuals struggling with mental health challenges are not “crazy.” We all have our struggles and sometimes it can be helpful to have an unbiased individual to talk through our worries and stressors with. Going to therapy is not for the weak.
- Being vulnerable is hard and just showing up can sometimes be the most difficult part of therapy. Just because some people may need assistance processing and work through their thoughts and feelings does not mean that they are weak.
Therapy is just venting your problems to a stranger.
- Some sessions are just venting, especially if the clinician recognizes that a patient needs to get things off their chest. However, most skilled clinicians have been educated in therapeutic skills and techniques such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Structural Family Therapy, and Person-Centered Therapy, just to name a few.
- These are evidence-based practices that have been proven to assist many people in overcoming or reducing the severity of their mental health challenges.
Therapy does not work.
- This one is hard. Therapy does not work for SOME people, this is true. In my experience, therapy does not work for people who are not yet ready for therapy, and that is totally OK! I always tell my patients on our first session that they will get out of therapy what they put into it. Therapy is work. This is because it is more than just talking and venting like I explained in point #2.
- Your therapist may challenge you to reframe your thoughts and your words. Your therapist might push you to try new things that feel a little uncomfortable or difficult for you. Your therapist may assign you homework to complete by the next session and encourage you to come prepared to discuss it.
- If you come to therapy resistant to these challenges then you might not be ready for therapy. And yes it might not “work.”
- Another important part of this misconception is that not all therapists are the same. We are all unique, have different specialties, experiences, and educations. If you are not connecting with your therapist then it might not be the right fit. DON’T GIVE UP. Therapy is not a one-size-fits-all. Not connecting with your therapist can be disappointing and discouraging, but please try not to assume that this will be your experience with every therapist.
There are many different viewpoints on therapy and that is OK. It is good to be informed and cautious when looking into something that you are going to be investing your time and money in. Be sure to read a clinician’s bio if they have one and see who sounds like the best fit for you.
Try to come in with an open mind, leave these misconceptions behind and come to your own conclusions about therapy!
About Shelton Piland:
Shelton is a Supervisee in Clinical Social Work and provides services at our Fredericksburg location. She graduated from the University of Mary Washington with a B.A. in Sociology. She received her Master’s Degree in Clinical Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University. Throughout her time at VCU she has worked with elementary, middle school, and high school students in the Spotsylvania Public School system. To learn more about Shelton, visit here.