MYTH: “Therapists are going to make me talk about my feelings.”
TRUTH: Therapy is designed to provide people with an opportunity to share their stress, feelings, and whatever else that’s on their mind with a “professional secret keeper.” Sometimes we talk feelings, sometimes we talk smack about other people bothering you, sometimes we just talk sports. The human connection is half of what makes therapy so effective for people, not necessarily what we talk about.
MYTH: “Therapists are going to push me to take medications.”
TRUTH: Therapy is considered a behavioral intervention not a systemic (medical) intervention. Psychiatrists are the doctors who do prescribe mental health meds. If a therapist thinks that a client might benefit from some medication support, they may make a referral, but much of the time, a little therapy does the trick!
MYTH: “My Medical Health is More Important.”
TRUTH: Current research is showing a huge overlap between our physical and mental health. Poor physical health is directly linked to poor mental health and vice versa. Many up-and-coming medical models incorporate psychotherapy. This allows the doctors who treat medical patients to have a well-rounded understanding of the day to day impact and patterns of behavior that might get missed in a routine exam. Therapy is the most effective tool for supporting positive behavioral changes in addressing physical health (mentalhealth.org, 2019).
MYTH: “Therapy is only for crazy people!”
TRUTH: First of all, we are all a little crazy, so it’s not totally wrong, but the reality is, therapy is a service that can help anyone. Most clients who come to therapy are the average everyday person; moms, dads, siblings, managers, sales associates, doctors, bus drivers, professional bird watchers, you know, just regular people.
MYTH: “The therapist is going to analyze and diagnose me.”
TRUTH: Analyze This is really only a movie. In fact, almost all the ways therapists are portrayed in movies are inaccurate. We don’t “analyze,” that’s not really a thing. We learn about you and talk to you openly and honestly to help you feel better. We teach, we coach, we listen, we problem solve, we provide empathy, but not analyze. When it comes to a diagnosis, that gets a little trickier. If you want to bill your health insurance, they require that you plug something in for a diagnosis. Think about the medical field, you can’t just bill an insurance company for an “owie”, you need to have a code for that, they might call it a right knee abrasion. That’s a diagnosis. Same thing for mental health. Many people who come in for therapy may get a mild diagnosis. This might be something like “an adjustment disorder,” which means this person is having some challenges related to a life adjustment. Think new baby, new job, financial troubles, navigating grief and loss, parenting stuff, etc. That accounts for almost ALL people. The second most common diagnosis seen in outpatient therapy is anxiety. Current research shows that 20% of US adults have some kind of anxiety, but that only includes people who are actually seeking help for it (CDC, 2018)! So in reality, it’s much higher! Bottom line, you’re in good company when getting a diagnosis and in outpatient therapy, we don’t diagnose anything other than mild diagnoses without an extensive review with the client and other members of their care team.