Have you ever been in therapy? If so, what did you like about it? What did you dislike about it?
Psychotherapy isn’t as cut and dry as it may appear to some. You don’t just go in to an office and talk. You can do that with a friend.
Psychotherapy includes the building of a professional relationship with boundaries and goals of the client to improve, learn, and grow. It is a relationship in which the therapist, trained for many years, listens and watches the client to psycho-analyze or evaluate need, barriers, and challenges. It is a limited relationship due to the power differential, knowledge obtained, and ethical as well as legal limits.
Sadly for some, it is not a friendship, a personal relationship, or a balanced relationship.
This article will discuss 12 misconceptions about therapy with the goal of encouraging you to think more realistically about the therapeutic process.
I love my position as a therapist. I enjoy my career. A lot of therapists enjoy what they do which is why some chose it in the first place. It is rewarding, to say the least. But what really inspires me about my field of study is the power of the therapeutic relationship to facilitate healing, peace of mind, and change. Many of my clients have come to therapy hoping for a change but feeling discouraged by previous experiences in therapy.
I have made it a habit to discuss, during the first session, what therapy is going to look like and the approach I am going to take for their situation.
This has become a very important part of psychotherapy because many people come to sessions with all kind of incorrect perceptions and beliefs.
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I have listed below a few common misconceptions or incorrect views that I have come in contact with through clients:
- Therapy is short-term: Sigmund Freud was a strong supporter of long-term psychotherapy. He was of the belief that therapy takes a long time to work through due to defense mechanisms, “fights” between the ID, Ego, and Superego, as well as a host of other things. It is important to understand that therapy can be both short-term and long-term depending on the need for treatment and the presenting concern (i.e., problem).
- Therapy is for the “client” only: I have met with many families who believe the person they are bringing to therapy each week is the “patient” and not them. Sadly, families forget that they function very much like a machine. Each independent person has an affect on the other and when something is going wrong in the entire system, one part of that system may suffer the most.
- Referral means rejection: I have had to refer many clients out for further treatment, more intensive treatment, or treatment better fitted to their needs. Fortunately, I have only had to deal with a handful of clients who did not like the fact that I had to refer them out to someone else. But for some therapists, clients can struggle with this, especially if the client has been with the therapist for years.
- Hospitalization (302) from therapist means they dislike you: Hospitalization is often a means to a better end for clients who are severely in need of care. Good therapists know when to hospitalize a client against his or her will. Hospitals will never admit a client to the hospital on the basis that the client “might harm” themselves. Clients are admitted against their will when there is firm evidence that the client needs immediate attention to keep themselves safe.
- Anyone with a degree and title is professional: I have always been of the firm belief that professionalism is internal, not external. What I mean by this is that a person cannot be “professional” or “appropriate” unless they live their lives in a fashion that maintains the principles of professionalism and appropriateness. A professional attitude, respect for self and others, grace, maturity, and appropriateness all seem to be personality traits that are strengthened after we are taught the value of displaying these traits in the world.
- An absence of negative reviews means therapist is good: I have heard many people say “if there are no bad reviews then they must be okay. No news is good news.” Wrong! Let’s face it. Some people simply do not have time or the energy to write reviews (good or bad).
- Therapist’s serve me and things go my way: Sadly, some people approach mental health providers with an arrogant attitude. They believe that they should get everything (including medication and abrasive procedures) that they want just because they ask for it. A mental health provider or therapist is the authority in the relationship working with you in a teamwork fashion.
- It’s okay to argue with and force a therapist to do something: As stated above, you are a partner in your treatment but nothing more. The provider was trained and educated for a purpose. This doesn’t mean you have to just go along with everything. That’s not healthy!
- We’re friends: Wouldn’t it be great to have a therapist as a friend? Some people have this luxury while others do not. Sadly, some clients attempt to make their therapist their friend out of emotional and psychological need. But this is unhealthy and will most likely never happen. The therapist has a position of authority over clients which causes a power differential.
- I can keep coming back even if I don’t pay: Payment for services is a must. The therapist has to have a way to be compensated for the time they spend in each session, preparing for sessions, and engaging in completing lots of clinical paperwork for the client. There is often a variety of duties therapist’s engage in before the client comes to therapy and after the client leaves. Payment for services is compensation for time spent doing these things.
- Therapy is long-term: As stated above, the duration of therapy will depend on a variety of things. In most cases, therapy is short-term ( 6months-1 year), especially modern day psychotherapy.
- Therapy will continue as long as I need it to: Most therapists, based on what they are told by the client, set the duration of time for how long the client will need therapy. The goal of most therapists is to help a client resolve a problem and try their newfound skills out in the real world without them.
What do you think about this misconceptions? Have you held some of them yourself? Can you think of something I may have missed?
As always, looking forward to your comments,
All the best
American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Myths versus Reality. Retrieved from, http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/psychotherapy-myths.aspx.
Mohr, C.D, Ho, J., Duffecy, J., Baron, G. K., Lehman, K.A., Jin, L., & Reifler. D. Perceived Barriers to Psychological Treatments and Their Relationship to Depression. Journal of Clinical Psychology 66 (4), 394-409: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2907887/.