4 Misconceptions I Used to Have About Therapy
I recently was watching a television show where a man was being confronted by a friend about his new drug habits. The concerned friend suggested going to therapy and getting some help. The man instantly fired back a line about how talking about your problems never actually solves any of those problems.
This man’s reaction to therapy was very familiar as it was the exact same misconception I once held about therapy. I actually laughed when I connected this man’s thoughts on therapy to my own from a few years prior because how utterly wrong they are. I then thought of what I would say to this television character. Although I went to therapy for anxiety and depression and not drug abuse, I would tell him of my own previously held misconceptions of therapy and what it really looks like instead.
1. Therapy is when someone listens to you talk about your problems.
Therapy is so much more than one person saying what is wrong and one person listening. It is work. Hard work. My therapist gives me homework or tasks to complete when I’m not in session. These tasks allow me to work on the root of the problem, not just the symptoms on the surface. For example, some small challenges in the past have been to do something fun every day, put more focus on the things I can control, maintain relationships that are supportive like friends and mentors, write down how I feel on good days to read on the bad ones and make a list of qualities I am proud of in myself. In therapy, I am continuously working on myself by putting forth effort into actions to get to a better place, not just talking about problems.
2. I am so pathetic that don’t have any friends to help me out and that I instead must pay someone to listen to my problems.
Just like therapy is more than talking about your problems, a therapist is more than just a friend. My therapist is very friendly and if we had met under different circumstances, we probably would be friends. However, she is more than just a friend as she provides things a friend couldn’t. I used to think a therapist only provided advice, like a friend, but there is also a very real medical care aspect to our relationship as well. She has been able to provide online resources, books, understanding of my own unique learning methods, better coping methods, new study methods and all around has helped change how I view my world. Together, we have been able to find several root problems and have shifted my view point and reactions to those problems, all of which I don’t think a friend could do. I’ll admit, I have had sessions when I have felt as though all that was happening was me talking about my problems. I have since learned this was due to a flaw on my side. I wasn’t doing enough to help my healing and not a flaw in the system of therapy itself.
3. Only “crazy” people go to therapy.
I used to feel as though I was going “crazy.” I would lose control over my emotions multiple times a day and I thought if I went to therapy, it would only confirm I was “crazy.” I used to tell myself “OK, today is enough, this is where I straighten up and don’t let it happen again,” but it always would. The truth is, people who go to therapy are responsible people. People who know the coping methods they have been using on their own are not enough and they need some help. The last straw that made me go to therapy was this really bad night that put it into perspective just how much I was hurting those closest to me. Looking back now, I am proud of myself for being emotionally responsible enough for myself and for my loved ones to get some help. My future would have looked very different without it. You’ve got to take care of yourself and it all starts with being responsible with your needs. Besides, what does “crazy” even mean?
4. My therapist is going to push me to do her plan even if it’s something I really don’t want to do.
I had done a lot of research into medication and therapy for anxiety and depression before I had my first session with a therapist. I decided for me, personally, I did not want to pursue any type of medication to assist with my symptoms. I was very worried in the beginning my therapist would pressure me to change my mind. She never did. We did have conversations about it to make sure I was fully informed about the decision. Instead of pushing the subject though, she expressed it was a good thing I knew medication wasn’t a good choice for me if I wasn’t 100 percent committed to the process of finding the right prescription. Throughout my therapy, she has allowed me to have a lot of control in my recovery process. Therapy, in my experience, has been tailored to my needs and hopes for the future. We have had conversations about what I want to get out of therapy and she even lets me bring my dog to our sessions to make me more comfortable. I think the important thing is to not be afraid to tell your therapist what you want to get out of it, what would make you more comfortable and if there is anything you do or do not want included in your care plan.
I sincerely hope FBI agent Edgar Reed on “Blind Spot” will soon be able to overcome his newly found drug abuse and get some help. If you’re out there, contemplating therapy, I hope this in some way has helped you gain a better view of what therapy looks like and that you too are able to get yourself some help.
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Thinkstock photo via Suriko.