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Therapy: Facts and Myths

Therapy: Facts and Myths

by Alice Nafekh, MSW Intern

Therapy can be scary, especially if you have no idea what to expect and have never discussed your mental health with a licensed professional. While the idea of talking to a stranger about all your worries, self-criticisms, and past experiences seems overwhelming, therapy can provide a safe space to process your emotions and gain a different perspective. If you have been considering therapy but are afraid that your problems aren’t bad enough, your feelings will be invalidated, it’s too expensive etc. it may be worth examining some of these major misconceptions around therapy and separate fact from fiction.


7 Common therapy myths…


1. My problems aren’t bad enough to seek out therapy. 

Despite what you may have heard from family or seen on T.V, there is no threshold for distress you have to meet to qualify for therapy. It is true that therapy can be effective for individuals with severe depression or trauma, but it can be just as helpful for more common struggles like strained relationships, stress management, or self-doubt. In fact, seeking out therapy when you first notice these “smaller” indicators could minimize future stress and give you the tools to manage these stressors sooner rather than later.

2. Why should I talk to a specialist about my problems when I can talk to friends or family?

While talking to loved ones about your struggles can be an effective way to release stress and connect with others, therapists are specifically trained to help guide you towards the solutions that will fit your unique situation in a way that a friend or family member may not. They take an unbiased approach to your experience, have no knowledge of your past besides what you choose to tell them, and won’t be personally impacted by the decisions you make. While talking to loved ones is a great way to cope with distressing emotions or situations, a therapist offers experience, knowledge, and expertise that can give you the tools to manage your mental health and respond to situations in a way that is best for you.

3. Talking about my issues won’t fix anything.

While talk therapy isn’t as straightforward as taking medication to cure an illness, it can teach you the skills to manage emotions during times of high stress and approach situations with greater awareness of your likely reaction.  According to the APA, psychotherapy reduces the need for future health interventions, improves the long-term health of clients, and has a larger effect than most medical treatments. A 2016 study on the impact of talk therapy found that 75% of people who engage in psychotherapy have benefitted both mentally and physically, reporting increased satisfaction in the workplace and fewer medical problems (American Psychiatry Association). While it may not seem like therapy would have the potential to improve your life so drastically, it’s a proven treatment for psychological distress.

4. Therapy is too expensive.

The average cost of individual therapy without insurance in the US is $100 to $200 (Northwestern Mutual), with that price largely depending on the experience of the therapist and the area they practice (therapists based in metropolitan areas tend to have higher rates than rural).While this rate isn’t cheap, many health insurance plans will cover a portion if not all of the cost of in network providers. Some practices will provide sliding scale therapy, which is priced based on a variable, typically your income (Open Counseling), and may allow you to qualify for a reduced rate. This sliding scale option may not be advertised by your provider so it’s worth asking about if you can’t afford their typical rate or don’t have insurance.

5. Therapists are going to blame everything on my childhood.

Therapists take time to understand their clients and learn about their background, so it may take more than one session for your therapist to get a feel for what events have shaped you into the person you are today. While your childhood will likely be something your therapist asks you about, they will come into your session objective and interested in knowing the events you believe are important. One person may benefit from a higher focus on their childhood than another depending on their past and what they are currently going through, but a good therapist will focus on what you believe is relevant and your experience as a whole.

6. I don’t want to be stuck with a bad therapist.

The great thing about therapy is you have complete autonomy over who you see (ignoring cost and insurance constraints) and have no obligation to continue seeing someone if they’re not a good fit. Many therapists will have a short bio on their website or Psychology Today that will give you an idea of their approach to therapy and personality which will help you decide whether they would be a good fit. To decrease the likelihood of feeling dissatisfied with your therapist, it is important to be straightforward with them in the first session and explain exactly what you want out of therapy and express any concerns or doubts. Remember that you are your own biggest advocate and have the power to decide who you want to see and for how long.

7. Therapy just seems scary.

A major part of going to therapy is talking about some unpleasant memories and feeling the emotions that go with them. While it feels uncomfortable in the moment, bringing painful feelings to the surface allows you and your therapist to examine their source and connect it to your current experience, deepening your self-awareness (Counseling Today). Similar to a doctor draining an infection, therapists draw out the negative emotions to help their clients begin healing, which can be painful but leads to a happier and healthier life.



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