What comes to mind when you think of therapy? Perhaps you imagine laying on a couch while someone interprets your dreams or a smiling woman pestering you to talk about your emotions. In reality, therapy is much more diverse and nuanced than it is often portrayed in the media. Unfortunately, it is too often that misconceptions about therapy prevent people from getting much-needed behavioral health help. Here are some common myths I have come across:
“It doesn’t work.” Many studies (3) have shown that therapy is beneficial in reducing distress in individuals with a variety of behavioral health issues. However, it is a gradual process rather than a “quick fix” so it may take a while to see results. Furthermore, therapy may bring up negative feelings before positive change occurs. While you may believe that you will get better on your own with time, behavioral health issues can worsen if left untreated. The guidance of a therapist is typically helpful in the healing process, even if you consider yourself a very self-aware or mindful person.
“It’s not worth the money.” Behavioral health issues can cost money in sneaky ways. Individuals with behavioral health issues often lose money from unemployment and unpaid leave from work as well as from physical health issues that arise from stress or not taking care of one’s health (2). Paying a copay – or even full-price for therapy – upfront is often worth the investment. Personally, I am a firm believer that health is the best thing that anyone can spend money on.
“People will judge me.” While it’s true that there is a stigma against mental health issues, studies show that sharing facts or personal stories about behavioral health issues may help others understand more about what you are going through (1). That being said, it is up to you to decide whether or not you want to share information about your behavioral health issues and treatment. If you need support but are not ready to discuss your behavioral health with friends and family, you could try support groups through organizations like Mental Health America and National Alliance on Mental Illness.
“It takes up too much time.” It may seem like with everything going on in your life, therapy is the last thing you need to do. Therapists are usually flexible and can meet according to your schedule, especially once you’ve had an initial assessment. If you would like to have sessions after business hours or on weekends, online therapy may be helpful as well.
“I don’t have a behavioral health issue, so therapy won’t help me.” The goal of many therapies is to reduce distress. Even if you don’t have a diagnosable behavioral health issue, therapy could be helpful if you are feeling emotional pain or mental anguish on a regular basis. Sometimes a diagnosis could be helpful for insurance purposes, but therapists are usually understanding if you just need to explore some issues that are pestering you.
“All therapy is the same.” There are many different kinds of therapy, ranging from cognitive-behavioral therapy to family therapy to positive psychotherapy. Therapists are typically trained on communication styles and particular interventions, so the dialogue of therapy goes beyond talking about your family history and asking, “How does that make you feel?” Like most things in today’s world, you also have a choice of which type of therapy and which provider you would like. If one type of therapy doesn’t work out for you, you could always try another!
Behavioral health issues can be complex and destructive, but there is a strong evidence base that shows therapy can be effective. I have worked with therapists in a variety of capacities, and am continually inspired by how many behavioral health providers genuinely and fervently care about their consumers. If you have been feeling unlike yourself lately or believe that you could benefit from therapy in any way, it may be worth giving it a try, even if only for a couple sessions.
To find a therapist, you can consult your insurance provider, websites like Psychology Today, or search directories for online therapists.
- Thornicroft, G. (2015). Evidence for effective interventions to reduce mental-health-related stigma and discrimination. The Lancet, 387(10023), 1123-1132.
- Schofield, D. J., Shrestha, R. N., Percival, R., Passey, M. E., Callander, E. J., & Kelly, S.J. (2011). The personal and national costs of mental health conditions: impacts on income, taxes, government support payments due to lost labour force participation. BMC Psychiatry, 11(72).
- Hunsley, J., Elliott, K., & Therrien, Z. (2013). The efficacy and effectiveness of psychological treatments. Report by The Canadian Psychological Association. Retrieved from http://www.cpa.ca/docs/File/Practice/TheEfficacyAndEffectivenessOfPsychologicalTreatments_web.pdf