There is a lot of stigma that surrounds the idea of going to therapy. It has been lessening some in past years particularly when discussed by the younger generations, but the stigma still stands. Today, I want to talk about some of the common myths about therapy versus the realities and how I personally have found it helpful.
Myth 1: People who go to therapy have serious mental issues or are “crazy.”
Reality: There are a lot of reasons that people go to therapy. Is it true that there are people who are in therapy because they are struggling with a serious mental illness? Of course. But even these people aren’t “crazy.” Them suffering from a mental illness and going to see a therapist is just as normal as someone being diagnosed with a physical illness and going to a physician. They shouldn’t be labeled negatively. But to my main point, different circumstances lead different people to therapy. Sometimes, someone had something traumatic happen in their life. Sometimes, they are grieving the loss of a loved one. Sometimes, they are having work or relationship trouble. Sometimes, they just feel a little off-balance. Sometimes, it is just good to have someone to talk to who can give you more concrete advice than your friends or family. There are so many reasons that people go. I went because of my anxiety, but life happened while I was in therapy and now in addition to tackling my anxious thoughts, grief and the inability to control what happens to us have become topics of discussion. Therapists can help a lot of people on a variety of issues.
Myth 2: Going to therapy makes you seem weak.
Reality: I actually think going to therapy makes you incredibly strong. Allowing yourself to open up to someone and admit that you need a little help is difficult. Stepping into your therapist’s office for the first time takes a lot of guts. It also means you want to take of your mental health. People always talk about taking care of your body, but it is just as important to take care of your emotional and mental health. When we don’t address those problems, it can actually affect our physical health. So going to therapy literally makes you the opposite of weak. It makes you stronger in all aspects of your health.
Myth 3: Going to therapy is something you should be embarrassed to admit or talk about.
Reality: I firmly believe that talking about mental health issues as well as mental health support is incredibly important. That is one of the reasons I started this blog. Going to therapy is a difficult step to take. I went back and forth on whether or not I wanted to go when I first started. A lot of people who are struggling go back and forth. The worst thing that can happen for someone who is on the fence is for someone to make therapy seem like something that needs to be hidden or kept secret. That makes it seem like going is some taboo thing. I understand if you want to keep therapy private, but you shouldn’t actively be embarrassed about talking about it because there is nothing embarrassing about it. When someone asks you if you can get lunch with them and you can’t because you have a therapy appointment, be honest with them. Just saying, “Sorry, I can’t today. I have therapy.” can be powerful. Talking about it normally normalizes the idea for people and it no longer feels like something that should be talked about in hushed tones. I personally am extremely open with the fact that I go to therapy. My friends and coworkers know who I’m talking about when I bring up my therapist’s name. They don’t know the intimate details of what we talk about, but they know I go and that she has been helping me. Talking about it may help someone take the next step in reaching out to a therapist. You never know. So don’t make it seem like it’s embarrassing. Normalize it and hopefully one day the stigma will cease.
Myth 4: It’s a waste of money if you have friends and family to talk to.
Reality: I’ll speak personally for a moment and say that while I love my family and my friends, they cannot always look at the events unfolding in our lives from an outside and objective standpoint. When an event happens, like a death in the family, talking to the other people affected can be helpful, but the advice or support you get in return comes from a very personal and biased perspective. Talking through your feelings and really understanding what they are and how to cope with them, is something that a therapist can do better than a friend or family member. They are trained to help people. It is also sometimes hard for me to express my emotions to those around me. It is something I’m actively working on in therapy. Also, sometimes being able to talk to someone confidentially about issues you are having with friends and family, makes it easier to talk about. Talking to family and friends has the tendency to become a sticky situation if you are talking about people the other person knows. Often issues surrounding friends and family pass, and keeping those things confidential allows you to move on in the future without those things hanging in the air. It is a safe space to vent which allows you to process your emotions more freely. Don’t get me wrong, talking to family and friends is important and can be helpful, but that doesn’t mean a therapist isn’t necessary or an important extra level of support.
Myth 5: Therapists just tell you what to do so you can fix your problem and move on.
Reality: Therapy is helpful because the therapist guides you in a direction, but allows you to come to conclusions and revelations on your own. Therapy is work. Just like you work out in order to stay fit physically, you come to therapy to stay fit mentally and emotionally. You will not walk into a therapist’s office, state your problem, get handed a list of ways to fix it, and then leave. Therapists rarely tell you exactly what to do. Often they give suggestions, but it is up to you to take them up on it and usually, the suggestions don’t lead to your problems being solved immediately. To really get the most out of therapy, you need to be willing to put in the work. Also, be prepared to be in therapy as long as it is necessary. Some people go for a few weeks, some a couple months, while others have been in therapy for years. There is no right or wrong amount of time to be in therapy. That is at the discretion of you and your therapist. But no one is only in therapy for a couple sessions and then is able to walk out worry-free. It is important to be open with your therapist for them to provide the best support. The need for that type of support to continue is determined on a case by case basis. Find the right therapist for you, expect to put in the work, and be prepared to be there as long as it takes.
Therapy has been a very important thing for me. It has helped me a lot and continues to help me work through all sorts of life changes and issues that come up. I personally think that anyone can benefit from therapy, but don’t go until you are ready. When you are ready, be open to the process and really open up to your therapist. That open communication is what allows them to really help you. Also, don’t be ashamed that you are going, be proud of the fact that you are taking the next step to be the best version of yourself. Being happy and healthy is the goal, and therapy can be a useful step to getting there.