There are many myths, misconceptions and expectations of how and what happens in therapy. As a profession involving mental health- which has stigma around it- it has been constantly belittled. However there is growing awareness surrounding this as more and more people are consciously talking about the mental distress they experience in their lives. But along with it comes some myths that need to be busted. We’ve already written one article debunking some myths about therapy. This one is adding more to it. Make sure you read that one too.
We’ve asked our therapists Varsha Vemula and Lalitha Pooja about the myths that they hear about therapy in their work with clients. They also spoke about how these come in the way of the work that they do and how it is important for us to debunk these myths.
1. THERAPISTS GIVE ADVICE AND SOLUTIONS, AS THEY ARE THE EXPERT.
Many of us have this expectation that when we go to therapy and express our concerns, as the therapist is the expert and the professional they’ll give us solutions to our problems. This has caused people to misunderstand the process of therapy. Therapy is not about the therapist telling you what to do, it’s about exploring together what is the concern and collaboratively working towards it. ‘Coz if it was only about knowing what to do, all humans innately have the ability to know that. Don’t we?! Don’t we all know what we should be doing to not suffer?! But not so easy right! And also there are tons of people around us who can give us ‘free advice’. But the distress associated with the concern is something that therapy helps with.
2. GOING TO ONE OR TWO SESSIONS IS ENOUGH.
This misconception mostly comes because of how we see physical health and mental health through the same lens. For physical concerns we go to a doctor once or twice and we’re done with it, we think that similarly therapy sessions also need to be taken only a couple of times. But mental health is very different which involves thoughts, emotions and feelings which are continuously variable. It is a process which takes time and that depends on the individual. The therapist cannot say for how long one needs to be in therapy.
3. ONCE I END THERAPY, I’M SORTED FOR LIFE AND NEED NOT EVER GO AGAIN.
This also has its roots in the way we deal with physical health. But for mental health, it’s quite different. Therapy over a period of time, enables you to deal with your concerns and when you feel you are in that space, you might want to end therapy. But it doesn’t mean that you won’t ever be requiring it again for the same or different concerns. ‘Coz life happens everyday and on some days it can get difficult than the other days.
4. IF THE THERAPIST IS NOT OF MY AGE, THEY WON’T BE ABLE TO UNDERSTAND MY PROBLEMS.
Many people hesitate to express their concerns to the therapist if they feel they don’t belong to the same age group as they wouldn’t understand it. This is entirely a myth because even though the therapist might be young/old to you, or might not have experienced your life concerns; it doesn’t come in the way of the process. They are trained for it and have the skills to deal with it. At the end of the day it’s the distress that an individual experiences with respect to their concern that they need help with- and a therapist can help you with it.
5. I WILL TELL ALL MY PROBLEMS AND LEAVE IT TO THE THERAPIST TO UNDERSTAND AND TELL ME WHAT TO DO.
It is said that what happens in a session accounts for only 20-30% of the therapy process and the rest of it happens after the client steps out of the room. No matter what is being discussed in a session and whatever the therapist tells you, it doesn’t make sense if you’re not taking it back with you. The individual needs to have accountability and sense of agency to be willing to work on it. Only then it’ll be fruitful. Therapist is not the only one who does all the work. It takes effort from both the ends.
Our therapist’s at Pause for Perspective have started podcasts about mental health in regional languages- Telugu and Hindi, with the aim to make mental health accessible to everyone.
Article written by our Psychotherapist Varsha Vemula.