• Answers to common misconceptions, concerns & frequently asked questions about psychotherapy

misconceptions about therapy …

Many people share similar thoughts and ideas about therapy. Some of these suggest that there are misconceptions and unanswered concerns which can prevent people from experiencing the positive, life-changing benefits that therapy can bring.  I am going to try to answer some of these concerns for you.

Therapy is not for me, it’s for people with serious mental problems …

Therapy is not for everyone and therapy is not just for people with serious mental health problems. Therapists work within a wide spectrum and in various settings. From more serious mental health problems to those people with no previous mental health history at all. Life goes in phases. Some phases are easier than others. At some point, we have experienced stress, felt anxious, overwhelmed, sad, or depressed. No one is immune to these common, human conditions. Each individual’s problem/s can feel serious and overwhelming at any given time. Therapy offers a place to think about this. Therapy is a great opportunity to make sense of what matters and find ways to resolve difficult and complex problems.

Therapy? How does it work? And does it even work?

Therapy is not a quick fix, nor can it magically cure all ills or wipe away the past. But it can change old behaviours which may be problematic and even destructive. With time it can help alleviate the pain of experiences, helping to process them, so that they no longer overwhelm us. It also builds resilience and confidence.  Therapy is a process that teaches us how our mind and emotions work. Scientists have proven that every day our brain is being shaped, moulded and changed by our experiences. This is referred to as neural plasticity. Therapy can offer us more choice to help us navigate feelings, build better behaviours and improve our relationships. It helps us to think about our thoughts differently, so that we can recognise and decide how we want to live the life we want.

I have friends I can talk to …

It’s true, friendship is extremely important for good mental health. It can also act as an important support during therapy. However, no matter how close a friend is, they may not have the skills required to address complex problems. Good friends are not usually trained therapists. Sometimes, we can help ourselves by making changes to our lifestyles; by talking to friends, reading self-help books, new hobbies etc. This can be very helpful and beneficial to us.  Other times this isn’t enough and problems can seem to overpower us and impact on our lives, work and relationships in a detrimental way. No matter how good a friendship is, it may not have the capacity and objectivity important to undertake safe therapeutic work.

Why would I talk to a stranger?

It’s not easy taking the first steps. It takes some courage. However, the idea of talking to a stranger can often seem much bigger and worse than the reality of actually doing it. Sharing your story with a Therapist who suits you is often surprising and reassuring. Choosing to embark on a safe, non-judgemental therapeutic relationship and working at your own pace, can offer the perfect balance of personal space and empathy that feels helpful, authentic and just right.

I can fix my problems with the help of my family …

Sometimes and no matter how much we might love our families, we can also feel unsurprisingly ambivalent toward them. It can help to get a different perspective. Especially if turning to family and friends for help hasn’t worked in the past. It can be tricky to see the wood from the trees within complex family dynamics. Sometimes families can also feel like part of the problem. Sometimes we want our lives to remain private from them.

Once you start therapy you won’t stop …

Because we are multi-facetted, and life is too, therapy can continue for as long, or as little as you choose. You are in control at all times when deciding the amount of therapy that you feel ok with. Setting goals at the start can work for some individuals, however, one size does not fit all. Therapy can also depend on the complexity of the problem/s.  As life goes in phases, it can be helpful to know that therapy is there during those different phases; childhood, adolescence, college, university, work, relationships, having children, marriage, loss, death, transitions, etc. Therapy is there, if and when you may need it.

Why tell someone who I don’t know, embarrassing and upsetting things about myself?

Whoever you are and whatever you say in therapy it is treated with the utmost respect and care. Therapists are trained professionals specialising in working with subjects that may be extremely personal, embarrassing and/or upsetting. They are trained and experienced in this type of work specifically. Like other Health Professionals they work with different people, in different situations and with varying problems.  Therapists work with problems in a sympathetic yet objective way. They carefully develop and build a trusting relationship. Feeling safe and not judged is essential to being able to share difficult, embarrassing and or upsetting experiences. Then it can feel liberating, like a weight being lifted. Work can then begin to process and make sense of feelings, at your pace.

It’s one-way, they don’t tell you anything about themselves …

Therapy is a secure space for you, it is not the therapist’s therapy. A fifty minute session devoted to you is a relatively short time each week. Therefore, while a therapeutic relationship develops, it is important to always have safe clear boundaries. Boundaries that focus the thinking toward and around you and not your therapist.

Then they say, "time’s up” …

Time is all part of a safe boundary. It helps to carefully contain the thinking and emotions shared from one session to the next. The time is managed so that you become accustomed to it, like an internal clock. If you are feeling upset and need a few minutes to compose yourself at the end of a session, this is something the therapist would manage very sensitively for you. The time boundary may seem strange at first. However, if your session regularly started late or went significantly over time each week it could add to uncertainty. It could make the session feel unclear, undefined and unpredictable. It is important to be able to expect your therapist to be as reliable and consistent as possible. Time keeping is an important part of that.

I hope the above information is helpful. If you have any further questions which I have not covered please see my FAQ page, or email me here.