When I worked as a psychologist, I spent most of my time dealing with my clients’ incorrect beliefs about therapy – almost all my clients were confused about my role. I had to explain that I was not an advice-giver, spiritual healer, palmist or a cheerleader! I agree, the therapeutic process is confusing to understand. How can something so personal be professional? Why do people without a “mental illness” visit a therapist?
Therapy remains a shrouded topic and is ridden with misconceptions which prevent a person from seeking help. It’s common to be confused or even fear something we do not understand, it’s easier to dismiss therapy than to participate in the process. At TSC, we hope for a day when therapy is not ridden with guilt and shame. Here is our attempt at busting common myths about therapy. These myths are based on statements I have dealt with through my practice.
“Visiting a therapist means I am crazy and/or weak”
No! Contrary to popular belief, therapy is not just for those who are seemingly not in control of their lives. Yes, some people choose therapy because they are dealing with clinically diagnosed psychological issues but others might just need extra help in coping with major life transitions – death of a loved one, financial insecurity, marital issues and so on. Each of us deals with stressors on a daily basis. We all have emotional and cognitive issues needing external support – therapy is suitable to all. Even therapists have to go through therapy. In fact, as part of most courses for trainee therapists and counsellors, therapy is mandatory throughout the programme. It is believed that therapists can and will be able professionals only when they have been through the healing and cathartic process themselves. Therapy is not only for the “crazy” (whoever these people may be!), it is for everyone.
“Therapy is common sense. I don’t need a therapist, I need my friends.”
I once got asked if I chose to be a therapist because I couldn’t do well in other subjects. I get questioning looks from others because what else do I do than listen to people and tell them stuff they already know? Therapy is different from common sense. Therapy enhances your ability for introspection and insight. You are in the hands of a trained expert who understands the goals you have set for yourself and works scientifically and empathetically to achieve them. Therapists are not your friends. They are trained professionals who have spent years learning and practicing how to effectively understand and manage your cognitive, emotional, behavioural and relational issues. Each session is devoted to you and you are not judged for what you say or do. Therapy is also confidential. It is a therapists’ professional mandate to not discuss what you say (as long as it doesn’t harm you or others) with people beyond the therapy room. Strictly, no gossiping! How many friends can promise you that?
“Therapy is expensive”
That depends on you. It’s like going to a doctor. Or shopping for clothes. You choose your doctor (or your clothes) according to what fits your pocket. Charges for therapy span across a wide range, so not everyone charges Rs.1000/- and above. There are competent therapists who charge Rs. 250/- to Rs. 800/- for an hour long session too.
“All I need is to be happy, keep a positive attitude and I’ll be fine.”
Well, yes. Mental health is enhanced if you are happy. However at times, you might try for months on end, even convince yourself about being able to manage your life effectively now, but it is not enough. At times, it is incredibly hard to heal your difficulties alone. That doesn’t mean you are falling short of being an able individual. It just means you need someone to assist you in healing yourself. You have taken the first step to make yourself better.
“Why should I pay someone to listen to me whine?”
Therapy is not a one-sided affair. Yes, therapy does focus on you a 100%. However, it involves team work. You need to work alongside your therapist in a collaborative relationship to solve problems and find solutions together. Therapy is an interactive process which demands an active engagement between both, the therapist and the client.
“I will have to be in therapy all my life.”
Therapy is an individualised process. It focuses on you. You get to set the pace to your sessions, you get to decide when you want to achieve what and you get to decide when you want to opt out of it. The one and only goal of your therapist is to empower you to function better which might take a couple of weeks, a month, a year – the time span depends on you and how well you respond to the therapeutic methods. You draw up your treatment plan and structure it to suit yourself.
“I don’t need therapy, I just need some medication.”
During my post-grad days, I remember reading an article which said medication is a bandage – it heals your pain temporarily. Without therapy, you are just covering up your symptoms and avoiding dealing with the root cause of your concern which results in the issue never going away. Medication can be a necessary supplement to therapy, but it is seldom sufficient by itself.
The success of therapy lies in uncovering your issues, layer by layer, following which you work towards a healthier and happier future.
If you have any thoughts or questions about therapy, please do write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org