The 5 Most Common Misconceptions About Psychotherapy
Whether you’re someone who has experienced a life-changing event, or someone who’s discovered the need for some extra support in your day-to-day life, psychotherapy can be a very beneficial tool in the process.
That being said, a ton of people have heard some confusing messages and misconceptions about psychotherapy.
The team at KMA has heard plenty of misconceptions about therapy in our 20+ years of experience between our psychologists, psychotherapists, and social workers. The problem with misconceptions is their ability to stop people from getting help when they need it the most.
By the end of this article, we hope you’ve learned the truth behind some of these misconceptions. So, lets get into it:
1. Only very “sick” people go to therapy
This has got to be the one we hear the absolute most. There’s an assumption that you should only take care of your mental health if it’s “bad enough” or if you’ve been diagnosed with something. The problem with that is, that most people with mental illnesses don’t get treated, and many don’t even get the opportunity to get a diagnosis.
It’s estimated that about 450 million people worldwide have a diagnosable mental illness, with about 400 million going undiagnosed. That’s almost 1 in 4 people who aren’t receiving the treatment they need.
If we assume only “very sick” people should go to therapy, then a majority of our population will continue to go on untreated until their mental health becomes “bad enough.” In many cases, that point comes when damage has already been done.
It’s important to remember that mental illness doesn’t always look the way it appears on TV. Some of the most common mental illnesses are invisible if you don’t know what to look for. These are illnesses like:
- Anxiety disorders
- Some eating disorders
These, as well as many others, can be really easy to brush off, especially if we’re used to having them. Regardless of a known mental illness or not, we all need support systems. Even if you don’t think you have any specific issues, you might just need someone to talk to. Psychotherapy is there for that very reason.
Just like we work out our bodies to keep them fit, our minds need the same care.
2. Therapy is for the weak
This misconception is another really damaging one. This message tells people that getting support is a sign of weakness. In truth, acknowledging the need for help and seeking it is actually a pretty big sign of strength and emotional maturity in a person.
Not letting pride guide decisions revolving around our mental health can be a determining factor in our mental health journey.
If you’re someone who grew up hearing this, unlearning it might be a little bit more challenging.
Here are a few things you can do to help combat this misconception:
- Take some time to learn more. Psychotherapy is rarely what people assume it’s going to be, so taking some time to learn about it might ease your mind about any negative assumptions you might have. Read this article to learn more about psychotherapy.
- Read testimonials from people who can relate to you. Check out different blogs and forums written by people who might have shared your reluctance in the past, and find out how therapy has helped them in their day-to-day.
- Remember that everything you say in therapy is confidential. If you’re feeling fear around others seeing or hearing about your negative emotions, remember that psychotherapists are bound to secrecy unless you’ve indicated a plan to hurt yourself or those around you. Your therapist will keep everything you say and feel to themselves, so it’s the perfect place to pour your heart out!
3. Talking won’t fix my problems
This misconception is another interesting one, mainly because that’s not the role of psychotherapy. Your therapist's role isn’t to fix all your problems, but to support and guide you while providing you with the best tools to fix your own problems.
A psychotherapist can also help provide you with different perspectives on a situation you might be struggling with. A third-party, unbiased perception is often the best way to tackle a problem. Talking our issues out with someone is also a helpful way to organize our thoughts and come up with solutions we don’t always come to in our heads.
So, while just talking won’t fix your problems, access to resources, therapeutic tools, and a fresh perspective might just be what you need!
4. Psychotherapy is a “quick fix” solution
Psychotherapy is NOT a quick-fix solution. For most people, an average of 15-20 sessions that run for about 60 minutes is the most beneficial amount of time spent in therapy.
Many people spend more time than that but often reduce their frequency once they’ve hit that mark. Read this article if you’re looking for more information on why it's so beneficial to attend more than once or twice..
For most, psychotherapy consists of different stages that take you through a range of thoughts and emotions. The phases are:
- Commitment: This is when a therapeutic relationship is formed, and you and your therapist commit to the time and honesty you are about to put into your therapy journey.
- Process: This is where the work for your therapist really begins. As you start to discuss your life, your therapist will begin to search for triggers, cycles, good behaviors, and red flags. Along with different therapeutic approaches, your therapist might start to assign some homework here!
- Change: In this phase, you can expect acknowledgment and application of the tools you’ve received up until this point.
- Termination: This is your graduation phase! By this point, your therapist feels like you are ready to independently develop and support yourself using what you’ve learned in therapy. You can choose to continue to see your therapist after this point, but by here you have everything you need for success!
These phases happen over the course of your therapy journey, and as you can imagine won’t happen overnight. You can always consult your therapist after the first couple of sessions to get some guidance on a timeline, but it’s important that you take the time you need to heal.
5. My therapist will solve all of my problems for me
On the flip side of #3, we have the misconception that therapy WILL fix all of your problems. That optimism is awesome, but we don’t want to confuse the role of your therapist.
Putting the weight of all your problems on therapy is not conducive to a productive therapy journey. In fact, assuming that a psychotherapist can singlehandedly fix your life can be pretty damaging to your therapeutic relationship. Personal accountability is important when it comes to mental health as we really are the only ones who can put in the work needed to have a healthy mind.
Instead of assuming your therapist can fix all your problems, collaborate with your therapist to find the best solutions. Be honest and forthcoming with the issues you have, solutions you’ve already attempted, and perspectives you’ve tried to apply. This will help your therapist come up with the best possible resources to provide you with while coming to a solution.
Ultimately, your therapist will be your biggest cheerleader, but your problems are still yours to solve.
Misconceptions about psychotherapy are always going to be around, so we have to do our best to keep talking about it, and keep busting those myths! The more education we share about psychotherapy, the less misinformation spread and fewer people around the globe go undiagnosed.
We are always excited to share as much as we can about psychotherapy over at KMA, so we’ve provided a few more articles for you to check out if you’re looking to learn more. These will help you make a more informed decision about your therapy journey::
- How much does psychotherapy cost?
- What are the different types of therapists?
- What can I expect in an intake session?