Therapy is a central part of the treatment process for many conditions, from things like depression and anxiety to addiction to drugs and alcohol. In fact, one of the first questions many people ask when listening to the struggles of friends and family is, “Have you tried going to therapy?”
Despite the growing acceptance of therapy for treatment purposes, there are still some remaining stigmas and misconceptions about therapy. Unfortunately, around 40% of those who could benefit from mental health care do not pursue it or do not finish a course of treatment for precisely this reason.
Even though many misconceptions exist surrounding the process of going to therapy, it’s important to note that many of them are grounded in fiction rather than reality. These five common myths can mar the nature of therapy, driving away those who could truly benefit from seeking care.
Misconceptions About Therapy
Therapy plays a prominent role in helping millions of individuals around the world. Utilized as a part of care for many forms of mental illness and addiction treatments, therapy can make a significant difference in both emotional and physical wellness.
However, in spite of the advantages of going to therapy, not everyone is willing to speak with a trained counselor or therapist about their personal struggles. In many cases, this is due to the prevalence of misconceptions surrounding going to therapy. These five common myths may be preventing people from getting the help they need — even though they’re not true.
Therapy Doesn’t Offer Anything You Can’t Do Yourself
To some, the nature of therapy is mysterious. Without an education in forms of psychotherapy or a background in the principles of psychology, it’s not always clear what therapy will provide. As such, it’s easy to assume that therapy is something you can do on your own or that it’s like paying to talk to a friend.
In reality, this is far from the truth. Therapy is a field of medical study, and licensed therapists spend years in school learning practices and procedures designed to help people. From talk therapy to cognitive behavioral therapy, there are many ways therapists can approach treating patients. These generally aren’t the kinds of practices that can be applied without training. Further, a therapist is more than just a person to talk to, like a friend may be. A therapist is a highly trained professional with the ability to set goals and determine the best ways to reach them.
Therapy Is for People With Diagnosed Mental Illness
It’s not always easy for those struggling, whether chronically or temporarily, to admit that they need help. This is particularly true for those who have not received a formal diagnosis or who believe their symptoms, like periods of stress, sadness or anxiety, are too minor to require help.
However, it’s important for those who think therapy isn’t necessary to understand that there’s no right or wrong reason to go to therapy. Anyone who isn’t feeling happy and healthy can be a good candidate for therapy, regardless of prior experience with care or a current diagnosis. Therapists are happy to speak to anyone who feels they need a little extra support.
Therapy also doesn’t have to be a lifelong commitment. Seeing a therapist on a part-time basis or temporarily for several months or even years is very possible to address imminent issues.
Therapy Means Medication
Many people, especially those new to the idea of treating mental health issues, are hesitant about getting started in the world of mental health or addiction treatment. That’s understandable; facing the unknown can be scary. Unfortunately, this fear can contribute to inaccurate parallels between therapy and medication.
Many of those seeking treatment aren’t sure what to expect, and due to the presumed parallels between psychology and psychiatry, far too many people believe that going to therapy means taking medication. This, of course, isn’t true. Licensed counselors and psychologists don’t have the ability to prescribe medication, so seeing a therapist who is not a psychiatrist will not result in a suggested prescription.
Medication can be warranted in some cases, but this is the kind of thing that likely arises after going through therapy, receiving a diagnosis and creating a treatment plan. Medication is never a requirement for going to therapy or staying in therapy.
Therapy Is Expensive
The health care system in the United States can be very complex. From employer-based insurance to the health care marketplace, understanding how insurance works and what it covers isn’t always easy.
Those who had experience trying to pay for health care prior to 2010 or who haven’t had to use many insurance benefits in the past may believe that going to therapy can be expensive. Historically, this was true; before 2010, mental health treatments were often neglected under insurance. However, since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, mental and behavioral health services are considered essential and must be included in insurance plans. This means that for many people, going to therapy won’t break the bank.
For those who do not have insurance, therapy is still accessible. Many clinics offer care on a sliding scale, letting those with tight budgets and no coverage still see a licensed therapist and get the help necessary.
Therapy Is Painful
For those without experience, therapy holds a lot of unknowns. If you haven’t experienced it yourself, it’s easy to think about the kinds of frightening things therapy may bring. And, unfortunately, that leads to one of the most common myths about therapy: Therapy is painful.
The idea of talking about secrets, personal struggles, challenging life moments and troubling past experiences can be daunting. It can be hard to visualize how this might go, which can create a certain fear of the unknown. In many cases, however, this fear is unwarranted.
When done right, therapy isn’t painful as much as it is cathartic and freeing. Working through tough topics can be challenging, but it’s not intended to hurt — rather, to help. By purging these feelings, experiences and emotions, it’s possible to come to the other side in a happy, healthy manner. The journey won’t always be a walk in the park, but the end result is worth it.
Therapy can be an important tool for millions of people, providing a healthy way to work through circumstances and emotions that may be hard to live with alone. Unfortunately, false perceptions of therapy can hurt rather than help, making it harder for those who could benefit from therapy to make the leap. By debunking myths about therapy, it’s possible to change the stigma for good, one misconception at a time.