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TOP FIVE MYTHS ABOUT THERAPY
1Everyone can benefit from therapySimply put, no, not everone can benefit from therapy. The purpose of therapy is to help the client better understand himself, find patterns that he wants to change, to gain ego strength and improve problem solving. This assumes that the client is willing to take responsibility for his life and wants to improve. This accounts for the vast majority of people seeking therapy. However, in some cases, such as those who are in therapy unwillingly or those with significant personality disorders, the motivation and desire to assume responsibility for current issues is missing. This prohibits change. In some studies it has been shown to exacerbate symptoms and pathology by teaching “desired” responses in these pathologies. (Millon, Simonsen, and Birket-Smith).
However, most people choosing to engage in the therapeutic process benefit from it and feel that it is a positive experience. Since “rapport between therapist and client” is of utmost importance, I always recommend changing therapists if you are not happy. Sometimes simple things such as culture, language barriers, or personality style affect the therapeutic process. There are many psychologists in the area and I usually have many others that I can recommend if the “fit” is not right. Finding the right therapist is a personal yet important decision.
2Therapy is like talking to a friendWe think in images and often do not finish a train of thought before moving to the next (we already know what we are thinking, right?). Because of this, the act of verbally processing events has been proven to help most people, regardless with whom it is done. It helps the client organize his thoughts and feelings, and allows him to make sense of what he is thinking so that he may act accordingly. So, in some ways, “yes” therapy is like talking to a friend. If your friends keep the focus on you, are unbiased, supportive, and patient as you discuss your issues for 50 minutes, then it is similar to therapy.
The difference is that simply through the dynamic of the therapeutic relationship therapy maintains focus on you. Therapists are specifically trained in helping you find and discover patterns in your life, how these patterns affect you, and how you can find direction and purpose to change those patterns. We support and encourage you. We help you identify your strengths to overcome difficulties. Because we are unbiased and an “outsider” to your life, it is sometimes easier to openly and honestly process your issues.
3Therapy isn’t working unless you’re in painThere are different schools of thought in Psychology offering various techniques and styles. Some therapies work by breaking down your defenses in order to rebuild them. I believe that we all have defenses that we have built to protect our egos. Let’s think that each defense mechanism is a brick in a wall. Instead of breaking the whole wall down at once, I believe that one brick can be taken down and replaced at a time. That way, the strength of the wall is not compromised while fixing the areas that need reinforcement. For this reason, for me, focusing on your strengths is of utmost importance in the therapeutic process. Usually, by focusing on your strengths you can overcome weaknesses and make the changes you desire.
4Therapy entails blaming your parentsExamining and understanding how both painful and positive experiences have affected us helps us see patterns, how we relate to the world, and shapes who we are. If there are things we want to change, the best place to start is by looking at our history. Having said that, as adults, our lives are ultimately OUR responsibility and what we choose to do and how we choose to do it is all on us. The first step in this process is gaining awareness. The next is assuming responsibility and developing effective coping and problem solving skills. The last and most important step is practicing these newly learned behaviors and attitudes. These steps, although difficult, give us a sense of ownership of ourselves and empower us to self actualize.
5Therapists always agree with their clientsIn most cases this is totally irrelevant, because it is not what the therapist wants that matters, rather, what the client wants that is the topic of therapy. However, as therapists, we are trained to understand that things are not linear nor always black or white. Often, unhealthy patterns emerge and become ingrained in families or couples, or within an individual himself. We understand that there are different perspectives. Confrontation is a normal part of the therapeutic process, one that is invaluable to the growth of the client. Once rapport is established, most clients will understand that the therapist is not judging her, rather encouraging accountability while understanding individual limitations.