With so much information at our fingertips, people can easily be led astray about what really happens in therapy. As I was reminded by a recent episode of This is Us, a show always in my DVR, well intentioned media can misinform. The episode left me unsettled as it portrayed a therapist as aggressive and provocative. A person may consider reaching out for help for weeks, months or even years and still give pause about seeking treatment. The unknown and/or misconceptions can lead to avoidance of treatment and perpetuation of struggles and stigma around mental health. While experiences can vary widely, there are a few agreed upon things amongst therapists that are common misconceptions.
- Therapy is not forever. While some people do choose to maintain a therapeutic relationship for years, so much great work can be done in much shorter periods of time. Do your research and find a therapist with a style and approach that feels right. There are short term approaches that are solution focused that may be appropriate.
- Typical therapy is not the antagonistic woman and confrontation portrayed in This is Us. Therapy is meant to be supportive, with guidance and sometimes a gentle nudge, but not aggressive and make you feel worse than you did when you entered the door. Granted, the storyline needed to be moved along and the flashback was from 30+ years ago, but this can still be misleading to many.
- Therapy is not about the couch. Well, ok, many offices do have a couch or loveseat, but it’s not about laying on the couch and pouring your heart out while the therapist sits off taking notes or dozing. Again…this is not TV. Reality is, patients will and should make themselves comfortable, but it is not a requirement that a patient lay on a couch to get results.
- Therapy is not an open book when it comes to minors and parents. Most of the children I see initially assume everything I’m told is reported directly back to his or her parents. I make a point to explain confidentiality in detail, as well as what things will require me to break confidentiality. I also discuss the idea that there may be times that I will suggest we bring something to his or her parents together but only if in agreement. There can be a therapeutic benefit to it.
- Therapy is not the equivalent to talking with a close friend. A close friend may be a good listener and even give great advice, but he or she is not a trained professional who knows what to look for, how to guide, and how to give unconditional positive regard. A good friend is also not bound by confidentiality or ethics codes.
The goals of therapy are different for each person, but therapists aim to have it be a positive, beneficial experience. The results will depend on a number of things, including what is brought to the table, the process, and willingness to do work outside of session. Now that you have read a few things that therapy is not, contact me to find out what therapy is and how I could assist you in meeting your goals. https://anewapproach-counseling.com/contact/