There are numerous fears and misconceptions about going to therapy. Dr. Sharon Galor debunks each of them, one by one. If you feel nervous about discussing therapy with family and friends, keep the dialogue between you, your doctor and your psychologist/therapist. Don’t discuss it until you feel comfortable!
Fear No.1- Going to therapy means I am weak
It takes courage to recognize that you need help and to reach out to someone, who has the expertise and can help you to overcome your struggles.
It takes strength and determination to attend sessions, confront difficult issues, face challenges and be willing to be vulnerable so you can grow and create changes in your life.
It takes bravery and faith to dare to take action, be guided in directions you wouldn’t go before and to fight for a better, happier, brighter and healthier life.
It takes emotional maturity and accountability to do whatever is necessary to take good care of yourself.
Fear No.2- Therapy is only for crazy people
That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Many people, who go to therapy are bright, skilled, functioning and “normal”. They are struggling with a specific overwhelming problem or have everyday life stresses /difficulties, anxiety and depression that we all face at some time or another. Clients that go to private practices mostly have mild to moderate concerns and in fact going to therapy prevents the symptoms from escalating and becoming more severe.
Some individuals want to change a specific behaviour like better manage their anger, worries and stress or need support during a difficult time. Others want to get another perspective, increase insight to their thoughts and emotions, and/or to improve their capabilities of coping with negative thoughts and emotions by obtaining new skills.
There are also individuals, who go to therapy seeking personal growth and development. One can argue that the ability to acknowledge the problem and the need of support, taking action and control over the situation, asking for the help and accepting it, is an indication of sanity.
Fear No. 3- Talking about it will make it worse
It’s human nature to protect the self from threats and pain by denial, avoidance, suppression and the utilization of other defenses. Not talking about the pain might feel better in the short term but in reality nothing has disappeared. It is only temporarily out of sight, nevertheless it keeps growing in intensity. The consequences are that it has directly and indirectly more impact on your physical and psychological well-being, as well as, other aspects of your life.
Yes, it is difficult and it can be painful to confront and express verbally your thoughts, emotions or to share painful experiences or even traumata. But a talking about your feelings, thoughts and experiences in a safe, confidential and non-judgmental environment with a trusted psychologist will actually help you feel better. Just like a putting Antiseptics and disinfectants on a wound. At first it might sting. It is necessary and slightly painful but then the pain and discomfort gradually decrease and it helps heal the wound.
Therapy is a gradual process. Part of the therapeutic work is to help you develop the ability to tolerate your feelings without getting overwhelmed and without resorting to those defences and unhelpful behaviours. You will learn how to regulate and express your emotions, challenge those painful negative thoughts and improve your coping ability.
You will not get worse but better. It will give you relief, more insights, understanding, compassion and acceptance of yourself.
Misconception No. 1- There is no difference between talking to my friends/family about my problems and talking in therapy
There is huge difference!
In a friendship the needs of both people must be met. A conversation with friends involves a mutual exchange of listening and sharing. You might start talking and then the topic could change to something else that your friend wants to share. In therapy the focus is 100% on your needs, complaints and wishes. You don’t have to worry that you talk too much about yourself or that you might be overwhelming your friend, for example.
Talking with friends/family members may give you some relief but they are not professionals. With all good intentions they may react or say something that can leave you feeling misunderstood, alone, criticized, defensive, inadequate, ashamed and etc. Sometimes you might worry more about fulfilling others ‘needs and expectations than thinking about what you need. Psychologists are trained to actively listen and to give you the non-judgmental acceptance and the unconditional positive regard that you need. There is no need to censor yourself or consider how something may sound to others or worry about what they may think or feel about you. The confidentiality that you get from your psychologist also provides you with a safe haven to express yourself without any fears and concerns that someone might know what you said.
Psychologists are more than just good listeners. They have specialized science-based education and experience in the skills and strategies that help you cope. They are able to analyze deep thoughts, feelings and behaviour patterns. Psychologists help you understand these unhelpful behaviours and negative thoughts and with the help of newly acquired strategies, you will be able to challenge, change them and achieve more balanced and healthier life.
Psychologists are objective, impartial and outside of your life. They give you an outside, neutral and fresh perspective. Psychologists are not personally involved in your life and are not personally affected by you as your friends and family members are. The therapeutic relationship is a blank slate. There are no preconceived ideas, no ulterior motives, no personal involvement in the issue and no biased opinions, thus your psychologist works with you to discover what you really value, need, want, think and feel.
Misconception No. 2: “Therapy will cost me a fortune.”
We often spend easily money to make us feel good or better but it’s very short lived. Think of clothes, nice dinners, spa, vacations etc but when it comes to therapy we question the costs. Therapy is a long term solution to feeling good. You are investing in a process that includes working through your feelings, thoughts and behaviors that hold your back, as well as, you learn effective strategies that can help you the rest of your life. Eventually you will become your own psychologist so in the future you will not get overwhelmed again and you will be able to manage your stressors or mental health challenges on your own.
Going to therapy is about prioritizing you own well-being. The costs of not getting the help you need can be higher. Think of the costs of continuing to live your life feeling stuck, in emotional pain and subjective suffering; the effects it has on your health, the impact that your complains have on your family and friends or your career… Is a good quality of life and well being not worth the investment in yourself?
Think what it will mean to you if you reach the personal growth you desire and were able to set aside all the obstacles holding you back from living the way you that want. What price would you put on that value?
Misconception No. 3: “Therapy is never-ending.”
Therapy is not never-ending. The amount of time spent working with a therapist varies greatly between clients. It depends on the severity of issues one is working through, the level commitment to therapy, motivation to make therapy a priority, the completion of assignments, the application of strategies and tools in one’s life and the type of therapy provided.
Some people choose to stop therapy after their presenting issues have been resolved and others continue to further their self-exploration or begin work on other areas of their life. This choice is always up to the client.