I can’t tell you how many times I have heard “Oh, you’re a therapist? Yea, I’ve been thinking about going to therapy.” After a few questions I sometimes find that people have a very media-driven perspective of therapy. There are often many misconceptions about what therapy will be like, what a therapist is like, and whether or not it is right for that person.
When most people think of therapists, they think of lying on a couch, similar to Freud’s, with someone quietly asking, “And how does that make you feel?” While there is a time and a place for everything, as a person who may be new to the idea of therapy or considering it for the first time, that isn’t the image that will likely make you jump to your nearest directory.
Today, I want to debunk some of the common misconceptions of therapy.
1. When something in therapy isn’t working for you, please speak up!
The therapist is there to help you find your own way, but truly you know yourself the best. This can give the therapist an opportunity to clarify the therapeutic intention or to discuss alternatives.
2. Therapists should not double dip.
If you are seeing a therapist for your individual therapy, that same therapist should not be your marriage, family, or couples counselor. Why? Because when there is such a close connection between two people in individual therapy, it is challenging to keep an objective perspective with couples and families.
3. It can sometimes get worse before it gets better.
Change takes time, it can be challenging but it can be so freeing. I tell a lot of my clients “think of how long it took you to learn that behavior” or “how long you have been thinking that thought, it will take time to undo that.”
4. Therapists can only be as helpful as you are honest.
If a client is falsifying information to themselves or to the therapist in session, it can often add an unnecessary speed bump in therapy. That being said, don’t feel you need to go in and say things you have never been able to say out loud right away. Wait until you feel that you and the therapist have worked together to create a mentally and emotionally safe space for you.
5. You can request a new therapist if you feel that you don’t jive with your current one.
Just because you feel that one therapist may not be right for you, please don’t stop there! Part of experiencing productive therapy is being comfortable and safe enough to be open with your therapist. If you don’t feel like your therapist is a good fit for you, request a transfer. You can even transfer within an agency or clinic. At the very least, you can ask your therapist for the number of a therapist you might work better with.
6. If going to therapy is hard for you, don’t be afraid to say so.
Having this kind of insight on a client is very helpful. It is helpful when a client comes in and says “I didn’t want to come here today but I did.” It helps me meet the client where they are and to walk with them rather than pull them to where I perceive they should be.
7. You have the right to full confidentiality and privacy.
Therapists are ethically and legally bound to protect your confidentiality. If you see your therapist in public, they shouldn’t address you unless you chose to address them. If you are concerned about privacy or confidentiality, ask your therapist about what limitations there might be or how they would handle those situations.
8. Therapy is not a one-time, one-stop shop.
Don’t expect to stop in just once, get what you need and never come in again. Therapy is a process. It takes time to make actual change or to create new habits that are sustainable and welcome. There is a 99.9% chance that won’t happen in one session. The average range of therapy sessions for change to occur is 6-8 sessions. So, don’t hesitate to take off your jacket.
I think that there is a huge stigma around mental health. Every person has the right to access resources that can help them move in the direction of feeling more comfortable and
Just remember, someday is better than never and today is sooner than someday.
Assistant Clinical Director
Lesley McKinney, LPCC, is the Assistant Clinical Director at Sage Neuroscience Center, and an individual therapist. Lesley has been foundationaly trained in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and loves working with individuals who have struggled to find success in therapy. In her non-work time, she enjoys being with her two kids, husband, friends, and family. She is completing a Masters in Healthcare Administration to continue to work on improving access to mental health care to her home state of New Mexico.