Top 10 Misguided Perceptions of Therapy
By: Christine Hammond LMHC
Ever wonder what it is like to go see a therapist? Perhaps there is a troubled relationship that is rapidly deteriorating. Or a boss that can’t be satisfied who chooses to verbal assault their employees. Or a traumatic event that never seems to leave current thoughts. Or a recent loss that is so overwhelming, forever changing the future.
Therapy is very useful in these cases and can improve a person’s life. But the expectation a person enters into the therapeutic process often limits the ability of the therapist to do their best work.
Over the years, clients have shared some misguided perceptions of therapy. Here are a few:
1. “Therapy should make me happy.” The intent of therapy is not ‘make’ a person happy. Happiness is a feeling which can be based on circumstances, outlook, and personality. The real purpose of therapy is to become fully functional, present, and connected in all environments and relationships.
2. “You need to change my … (spouse, kid, parent, or co-worker).” Every person is entitled to choose whether they want to change or not. This is a process that cannot and should not be forced; otherwise the relationship takes on an abusive aspect. A therapist can’t make someone change, they can only encourage or inspire.
3. “I want to be fixed in one session.” The process of therapy takes time because it requires self-discovery. As a result, there are no quick therapeutic fixes but each person has individual needs, perceptions, and motivation. For therapy to work best, it must be customized to the individual. This generates a lasting, long-term effect.
4. “I feel close to my therapist.” Therapy is designed as a one-way relationship meaning that only the client exposes themselves, not the therapist. This ethical boundary is set for the protection of the client. While it is not unusual for a client to feel close to the therapist, the relationship is not one of besties.
5. “I shouldn’t have to pay someone to get better.” Therapists are specialists in their field who have and continue to study, research, and develop an expertise. Just like other medical professionals, there are licensing requirements, specialties, and additional certifications all of which cost money. Remember, you get what you pay for.
6. “Tell me what to do.” Too often clients believe therapy should solve their problems. Therapists can shed light on options, explain potential outcomes, and connect the past to the present. But the point of therapy is to guide the client into making their own decision, not to make it for them.
7. “All therapists are the same.” No, they are not. Each therapist brings unique perspectives and expertise to a practice. Some therapist’s personality and method are better suited to certain clients. They are as different as each type of client. It might take a few therapists to find the right match, but it is worth the effort.
8. “Why can’t you help me with this?” Different types of therapy require an extra level of proficiency and should not be practiced by every therapist. Part of the ethical guidelines of therapy is to refer a client to someone who might be better suited with more know-how for a particular disorder or diagnosis.
9. “I’m all better now that someone else knows.” Just because a person has confessed an intimate secret doesn’t mean they are completely healed. The healing process is unique to everyone, just as grieving is. It must be customized based on personality and usually requires additional action or change in behavior.
10. “I should feel better after session.” Exposing areas that need to be worked on is not always a happy journey, sometimes it is painful. But it is through the hurt and healing that growth happens. It takes time to complete the process which rarely is done within a 50 minute time frame.
Before going to a therapist, make sure an accurate picture of the process is in place. This will allow the client to get the most out of the session in the least amount of time.
To schedule an appointment with Christine Hammond, please call our office at 407-647-7005.