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Top Ten Myths About Coming to Therapy


Occasionally, I come across information in tv shows or movies, social media, or in conversation with others that depict mental health and therapy in an unrealistic way. Usually, it's a small thing, but sometimes it's a BIG misconception. Our culture has come a long way in making strides toward normalizing therapy and mental health issues. In fact, statistics show that younger generations are coming to therapy more often and regularly than previous generations. In a 2019 report, the APA found that 37% of Gen Zers and 35% of Millenials have received treatment from a mental health professional, compared with 22% of Baby Boomers and 15% of older adults (https://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/01/gen-z). That's awesome! 

Unfortunately though, some myths still persist that may deter individuals from trying therapy or exploring their mental health a little deeper. In this post, we'll take a closer look at some of these myths and explore the truth about therapy.

1. Myth: "My issues aren't serious enough/big enough/traumatic enough to go to therapy"
    Fact: I see people that come to therapy with all sorts of presenting issues. There is no problem too small--or too big--to address in therapy. Clients often come in seeking a better understanding of themselves or their relationships. People tend to think that you have to have a profound psychological disorder in order to ask for help, but the truth is that many people don't. Therapy is normal. 

2. Myth: "I have plenty of friends and family to talk with. I don't need a therapist."
    Fact: It's great to have an extensive support system! Even better to utilize it effectively! But a therapist is a little different from a friend, for some obvious reasons and some not-so-obvious reasons. Your therapist is highly trained and has spent years studying and researching effective techniques and approaches to help you better manage your specific concerns. Also, friendships are a two way street. Your therapist will not ask you to listen to their problems, too. Relationships are reciprocal, though, and require that you are a support to them just as they are a support to you. That's not a bad thing, but in therapy, it's all about you! Finally, therapy offers a safe place to explore things you don't feel comfortable talking about with close friends and family. Maybe there's feelings of shame or embarrassment, or concerns of hurting others' feelings. In therapy, you're free to discuss these things with no hesitation. Your therapy has no connection to your social circle, and they are bound by confidentiality. So, you're free to let it all hang out!

3. Myth: "Therapy is too expensive. I can't afford it." 
    Fact: I hear this one ALL the time. The truth is,therapy can be expensive. It is an investment. However, there are lots of options for folks who can't afford ongoing sessions, either because their insurance has crazy deductibles, or they are uninsured, or they can't afford their co-payment. There are some clinics that may offer free or reduced rate services to clients who meet criteria. Additionally, many therapists offer a sliding-scale rate, which bases the session fee on the client's income. A great resource is https://openpathcollective.org/. Open Path is a non-profit organization that connects people with local therapists willing to provide therapy services for a reduced rate (between $35-$60 per session). There are many providers who believe in access to mental health services for those who struggle to afford it. I'm one of them! You can find me on Open Path here: https://openpathcollective.org/clinicians/kayla-renteria/.

4. Myth: "Therapists are pill pushers. I'm not interested in medication." 
    Fact: There are many different types of mental health professionals. Therapists do not prescribe medication. Psychiatrists do. Depending on your specific concerns, psychiatrists may play an important part in your journey. But for many, talk therapy is the only treatment needed. Your therapist might let you know that medication is an option and provide you with referrals to a psychiatrist, but the choice to take medication is yours. Your therapist can help you explore your fears about this and help you to make that decision, if you choose. 

5. Myth: "Therapy is for weak people who can't handle their own problems." 
    Fact: This one is becoming less prominent, but I still hear it! Mental illness is not a failure or shortcoming. It is not a weakness. We all have mental health, and we all need to take care of it. I love being a therapist because I get to work with some of the strongest people ever--clients who come in and bravely explore some really tough stuff. I'm honored to see that strength every day. There is no weakness in asking for help. That takes guts. 

6. Myth: "All therapists are the same. I had a bad experience in therapy, so it's not right for me." 
    Fact: Therapists are like fingerprints--no two are the same. They are all unique humans, with distinct personalities and characteristics, training, specialties, sense of humor, boundaries, approaches to therapy, and skill level. If you've tried therapy and had a bad experience, or just didn't click with your therapist, know that it's worth it to give it another shot. Sometimes it's not a good match--and that's okay! Choose a therapist that makes you feel safe, welcomed, and heard. The therapeutic relationship is THE MOST IMPORTANT part of therapy. We're not all the same. Find one of us that you click with. Someone that challenges you, but compassionately guides you toward your goals. 

7. Myth: "Therapy is too big of a commitment. It never ends." 
    Fact: The average time I see clients is about 6 months to a year. Depending on their reasons for coming to therapy, it's sometimes less and sometimes more. Sometimes I see clients weekly, sometimes every other week, and sometimes, if they've made good progress and just need some check-ins, we go down to monthly appointments. Therapy is a commitment, that part is true. It takes work and consistency to see progress in your mental health goals. But my goal as a therapist is to help my clients heal and learn to implement the work we do outside of session. My hope as a therapist is for my clients to feel empowered to regulate themselves effectively and apply the skills they've learned independently. 

8. Myth: "Therapists will blame me/my mother/video games/etc for my problems."
    Fact: If you have a therapist who uses blame or shame, they are not a good therapist. I'm just gonna say that. However, a therapist will hold you accountable for your mental health goals. They will give the work to you. And they'll help you explore your avoidance or difficulty moving forward with that work. That's a good, healthy thing. They might help you explore your anger toward another person, or your feelings of responsibility in situations, or your ability to control yourself around xyz. But this is done in a compassionate way, not by using blame or shame. 

9. Myth: "Therapists are all warm and fuzzy, hippie-dippie cheerleaders that will just say positive things to make me feel better."
    Fact: Many therapists are empathetic, encouraging, and welcoming. They create a warm environment to provide the best possible space for you to explore your thoughts and feelings. But, as discussed in Myth #6, we're all different. Some of us are more bubbly or down to earth, and some of us are more straight-shooters. As we talked about in Myth #8 though, a good therapist will hold you accountable. That means that we won't just say the things that makes you feel better. You will be challenged in therapy. That's part of the process. 

10. Myth: "Therapy is all about drudging up the past, and you can't change anything about the past."
     Fact: You will talk about the past. When we only look forward, we leave those old wounds untended to, which means that they will still sting. Exploring the past helps us move forward in a healthy way. Yes, it may bring you some discomfort. But I encourage you to not be afraid of this. A good therapist will guide you through this in way that is safe for you.

Hopefully, we continue to move forward in destigmatizing therapy and mental health issues in our culture. Next time you hear one of these myths pop up--take a moment to educate others. If you're comfortable, share about you own experiences in therapy. When we normalize therapy, we make it less "scary" and more approachable. 

Therapy is normal. 




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