Top 5 Myths About Seeing a Therapist (Psychologist and/or Psychiatrist)

Top 5 Myths About Seeing a Therapist (Psychologist and/or Psychiatrist)
Therapists help millions of people. While no form of treatment is going to work for everyone, countless people have found that talking their condition over with a licensed professional can help them begin the process of healing. Don’t let anxiety or misinformation get in between you and a healthy, happy lifestyle! If you’re suffering from persistent negative emotions, anxiety, depression, stress, or loneliness, it’s always worthwhile to consider seeing a therapist.

MYTH #1:
People who need therapy must be weak or crazy

MYTH #1: People who need therapy must be weak or crazy27% of adults will visit a therapist at some point. And about 20% are currently undergoing some form of treatment for anxiety, clinical depression, and other common mental ailments. Only a tiny minority of these people are severely mentally ill – most have normal lives and relationships, and only need therapy to help them minimize the effects of a slightly imbalanced brain chemistry and/or counterproductive mental habits.

Think of it this way: our bodies can malfunction in all sorts of ways, from nearsighted eyes to stiff joints. For most of these problems, there’s an effective treatment that can be administered by a trained doctor. You wouldn’t think twice about someone who visited a physical therapist for help with their arthritis, so why should treating the brain through counseling be any different?

The stigma around therapy and counseling is part of a broader culture of ignorance in regard to mental health. This ignorance prevents thousands of people from getting the help they need, which in turn causes untold needless suffering. Enough is enough. We have to realize that psychological therapy is just as normal and acceptable as any other form of medical treatment.

MYTH #2:
A “Shrink” will pump me full of drugs

no magic elixer, cure-all pillsMedicine has a purpose. Especially if you have some type of chemical imbalance. And it isn’t  something to be ashamed of when needed. You would never think of shaming a diabetic for taking insulin for low blood sugar.

Lots of people, especially those with ADHD and various forms of clinical depression, find that prescription drugs help to keep their symptoms in check. But there are also those that treat their conditions without the use of any medications at all, and you always have the final say over what medications (if any) to include in your treatment. In general, a psychiatrist will not prescribe medications without exhausting other options first, but if you’re uncomfortable with a recommendation, get a second opinion.

Talking things over with a psychologist or counselor is extremely therapeutic in its own right, and can be effective even for patients with fairly severe anxiety and depression.

MYTH #3:
I can’t afford a therapist

MYTH #3: I can’t afford a therapistAlthough therapy can certainly be expensive (like many other medical treatments), there are options even for people on a tight budget. First of all, it’s important to remember the enormous return on your investment. Mentally healthy people are more productive and, more importantly, more happy than those who go untreated. Therapy should always take the same level of priority as other medical expenses.

The same argument applies to those who think that they don’t have enough time for therapy. To say you “don’t have time” for something is the same as saying “it’s not a priority.” So is your own mental wellbeing a low priority? Of course not – you owe it to yourself and those who care about you to take action and stay mentally healthy, and often the best way to do this is by visiting a professional.

But isn’t therapy still unreachable for some low-income people? Unfortunately, this is true in a few cases, but even then there are options. Most colleges and universities offer free counseling services for their students, so low income is not a barrier to mental health on campus. Outside of college campuses, all health insurance plans cover mental health services – as of 2014, federal law requires “mental health parity,” meaning insurance companies are required to cover mental illness at the same level that they cover physical illness. So if you’re insured at all, or if you’re a student, you always have access to some form of therapy.

MYTH #4:
MYTH #4: Therapists are all “touchy-feely” and just want to talk about feelings
Therapists are all “touchy-feely” and just want to talk about feelings

There’s a huge variety of approaches to therapy, and every one is different. Some of the more traditional approaches focus on the patient’s emotional life, relationships, upbringing, etc., and this can be very effective. However, some people (especially men) have a hard time talking about these subjects, and sometimes they avoid therapy as a result. Fortunately, there are countless approaches that deal with more concrete, day-to-day issues, which can be more accessible for these patients.

An example is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT. This type of therapy is about understanding your daily thought patterns and the way they might be affecting your decisions. While any qualified cognitive behavioral therapist will be interested in what you have to say about emotions, relationships, etc., their focus will be on creating mental exercises that you can use to combat counterproductive mental habits. Don’t be afraid to tell your therapist right off the bat that you’d be more comfortable talking about practical steps rather than deep emotional topics – they will either work hard to accommodate your needs, or recommend a different therapist who might be a better match.

MYTH #5:
therapy really does help
No one can help me

One of the primary symptoms of clinical depression is a feeling of hopelessness about the future – from the inside of a depressive episode, it can seem impossible that you’ll ever feel any other way. The very concepts of happiness and pleasure can begin to lose their meaning. How can any therapist help me, you might be asking, if I am beyond help?

Hope exists. And help is available.

Sadly, many of the people most in need of treatment are the least likely to seek it out because their condition causes them to feel utterly hopeless. This cycle can be extremely harmful and even deadly, which is why there is nothing more important than making sure that people suffering from it find help somewhere. If you’re feeling hopeless about the future, or know someone who’s feeling this way, contact a therapist as soon as possible.

If you fear that a suicide attempt is imminent, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

Remember: this is just a condition, and like any other condition, it can be treated.

BONUS MYTH:
not all therapist has a weird old couch
My therapist will put me on a weird couch

You may envision an image from cartoons and movies of a therapist sitting at the head of a long couch, with the patient lying tearfully across it. This comes from the practice of Sigmund Freud, who often treated his patients in this configuration. However, very few people use it today. Most likely, the therapist will have a variety of seating options available, and will be happy to let you choose the one that seems most comfortable to you. You can certainly lie down if there happens to be a sofa and that seems right to you, but most people will simply choose to sit like they would in any other office.

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