Nowadays we all know how important it is to take a second to check in with our minds. We might meditate, exercise regularly but, perhaps one of the best ways we can make sense of what we’re going through is to sit down and chat about it — and where better to do that than in therapy.
Therapy is a bit different to offloading to a friend. Not only does it give you a safe, confidential space where you can get everything off your chest, it also teaches you practical techniques to help you deal with life’s ups and (inevitable) downs.
For this reason, it’s no surprise that therapy is used to treat a wide range of mental health conditions including anxiety, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder.
Yet, despite this, from time to time therapy gets a bad rep. People might rely too heavily on what they see on the telly or read in their favourite fictional books and get a warped perception of what therapy truly is.
Even with a world of information at our fingertips, it’s easy to get lost in the misconceptions about therapy. That’s why we wanted to separate the fact from the fiction and debunk some common myths about therapy:
MYTH: My problems aren’t serious enough for therapy
Many people believe that you have to be at rock bottom to go to therapy. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Of course, going to therapy can be a life changer if you’re in a crisi. But, at the same time, you don’t have to have a serious mental health problem to make it to your therapist’s couch.
You might be struggling to find The One, maybe you might be feeling a bit emotionless and numb or perhaps you’re struggling to pin down your purpose and values in life.
This is where therapy could do you the world of good.
Therapy can even help you even when you think that, on the whole, things are ticking along okay. Because, the truth is, when it comes to mental health, prevention is always better than cure.
There’s no two ways around it: life isn’t always plain sailing. We all experience heartache, grief and disappointment. And life can throw you a curveball when you least expect it. But by equipping you with the emotional tools you need, therapy can help you cope better. In many ways, you might become more emotionally resilient.
MYTH: My therapist will interrogate or shame me
Despite growing awareness, there’s still a lot of stigma, guilt and shame surrounding mental health conditions. Because sometimes the symptoms can be really uncomfortable or distressing. You might have distressing compulsions, negative thoughts might have taken root, or maybe you’re feeling so low that you’re struggling to brush your teeth or tidy up.
You might be embarrassed or anxious about voicing these concerns. But you have nothing to fear. Despite what reality TV shows may have told you, your therapist will never belittle, blame, or shame you. They’ve spent years training and they have heard similar stories before. With that in mind, they know that what you’re going through is really difficult.
Even when you slip up, your therapist will remind you that you’re only human. We all make mistakes and sometimes we do or say horrible things. But often there’s something deeper going on under the surface. And only compassion can help undo this suffering.
MYTH: Therapy is just like talking to a friend
As an outsider, it’s easy to look at therapy and think that it’s the same thing as talking to a friend. It makes sense. Just like a friendship, seeing a therapist involves talking with someone, sharing vulnerable parts of ourselves and maybe receiving advice. But this only scrapes the surface of what therapy is all about.
Therapy goes beyond the kind of chatting you could do with a friend. Your therapist has spent years training and they’ve learnt the very best evidence-based techniques to help you take control of your mental health.
In your session, your therapist will teach you how to better manage your emotions, how to challenge negative thoughts, behaviours and patterns and how to improve good relationships (whilst avoiding toxic ones). You’ll learn therapeutic techniques to help you remain calm and grounded when emotions are running high but most importantly you’ll learn to be more athletic and understand who you truly are.
In time, it’s only natural that you might come to see your therapist as a close friend. You probably spend a lot of time together and share deep conversations or maybe even a few laughs. But this relationship is slightly different. Unlike a friend, they can’t share your secrets, you don’t have to feel guilty about using up their time and they’re objective and unbiased. Above all else though, in most cases the goal of therapy is to eventually no longer need it. So this is a relationship that will hopefully come to an end, even if you look back on it fondly.
MYTH: I can always fix my own problems
It can be hard to admit that we could do with a little help. We all want to stand on our own two feet and look after ourselves. But you should never feel like you have to carry the weight of your mental health problems on your own. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help. If anything, being vulnerable and showing up for yourself is a sign of strength.
No one wants to feel anxious, distressed or low. Chances are you’ve already tried to get your mental health on track. And to some extent, it may even be working.
But when you’re struggling with mental health conditions it can be exhausting and overwhelming. You might not know how to cope or are dealing with distressing symptoms or thoughts, and this is where therapy can be a useful tool.
You’ll still be doing a bit of the legwork. But your therapist will equip you with evidence-based tools and techniques that have been proven to help others who have gone through similar circumstances.
MYTH: You’ll feel immediately better after one session
Getting your mental health on track probably won’t happen overnight.
Your problems might be so deeply rooted that it takes a few sessions for you to get to the bottom of them. Or maybe you can’t quite put your finger on what’s bothering you.
If this is the case, it might take a few sessions for you to unpack what’s troubling you. Afterwards, it’s all about learning therapeutic techniques and exercises to help you better manage your emotions and symptoms.
Therapy is a space where you’ll receive guidance on coping with your problems. It’s supposed to empower you to eventually do these things on your own. With this in mind, it may take a few sessions before you start seeing the effects.
MYTH: A therapist will make me talk about things before I’m ready
People often go to great lengths to avoid talking about painful emotions because, well, they’re painful. It’s okay if you’re not ready to share these straight away. In the past, you might have been dismissed or invalidated by others so you might have your guard up because you fear your therapist will do the same. Or you might be so used to bottling up your feelings that it might feel overwhelming to give them air.
However, the truth is, verbalising the emotions you’re feeling can sometimes help your brain better process the situation, helping you to shift your perspective and heal. Many people’s problems stem from early painful or traumatic experiences. But once painful memories are out in the open, they often start to lose their power. With this in mind, your therapist might gently guide you to explore some challenging memories or emotions. But they won’t do so until you’re ready.
MYTH: Therapist will confirm my worst fears that there is something wrong with me
Many people harbour a secret fear: they believe that there is something fundamentally wrong with them. But that’s just your mind chances are you aren’t inadequate, worthless or flawed. You
Life is simply full of challenges and heartache and no one walks through it unscathed. We all suffer, we all hurt and we all experience painful or difficult emotions like guilt, shame and loss. And one in four of us will suffer from a mental health condition in our lives. So many people are in the same boat as you. There’s nothing wrong with you. You might be facing some pretty distressing symptoms but your therapist will have studied and treated them before. You’re just going through a rough patch at the moment but, with the right support, your therapist will help you manage your symptoms and move towards a place of healing.
MYTH: Therapy doesn’t work
When you’re in a dark headspace it’s hard to imagine a time when you won’t feel this way. So you might scoff at therapy. But the truth is it works.
For many people with mental health problems, therapy can be a gamechanger. And there’s statistics to back it up. According to NHS Digital, half of patients who received psychological therapy in 2017-2018 for anxiety or depression recovered. And when we asked 8 people to use our therapy app Self-care everyday for a fortnight, 93% reported a positive change of mood.
Therapy is used to treat a wide range of mental health conditions from depression and anxiety to OCD and PTSD. It’s all about finding the treatment, and the therapist, that’s right for you.