Misconceptions About Therapy
Recently, I asked for questions and misconceptions about therapy on Instagram. I was happy to see so many people respond either with their own experience or for clarification about the process because it means that the conversation is changing and people are willing to learn more about what could potentially help so many.
The following questions/comments come from you and if there’s anything I didn’t address, please send me an email or leave a question in the comments. I first addressed the biggest question I got, which was “how do I even find a therapist?” From there are a list of misconceptions that I hope I can clear up for you and help break some of those preconceived notions around asking for help.
How do I find a therapist?
The hardest part about getting started is actually finding a therapist. It can be daunting to simply type in “find a therapist” and see the number of results just in your own area. Then there’s the issue of insurance, cost, fit, etc. This is where many people give up because it can get too overwhelming.
Finding a therapist doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Here are some tips on how to get started:
- Ask friends and family — Neil and I started couples counseling when we were newly in Chicago. We had no idea what was going on and barely knew anyone. We were actually able to get a recommendation from another family member across the county whose therapist knew someone in Chicago. The most trusted resources come from personal referrals, so absolutely start there.
- Check with your insurance — calling or checking online with your insurance provider can help you get a list of therapists that operate in your network.
- Check with other therapists — if there’s a therapist who doesn’t take your insurance, you may be able to speak to their office and ask them to take a look at the list provided to you by yours. Ask for any recommendations if they have them.
- Use sites such as Psychology Today to search for options in your area.
Your first (second, third, etc.) therapist will be a good fit
The first therapist Neil and I met with was not a good fit at all. That’s not to say anything against him personally, but after our first session we didn’t feel a connection and both agreed that it would be hard for us to get results working with him. We called the practice and asked if we could try seeing someone else, who ended up being a great fit and is still my therapist today.
Just because you start therapy with one therapist doesn’t mean that you need to continue if you don’t feel like there’s a connection. You are free to try as many different people as you need until you find someone who will be able to help you. It’s just like connecting with people every day; sometimes it’s just not there. Don’t give up on getting help simply because the first one wasn’t right.
Therapy is a luxury
Therapy has helped me so tremendously, even after years of recovery work before that. There are many things that I consider a luxury (I’m pretty cheap): vacations, fancy dinners, shopping for exercise clothes (ha), but therapy is just not one of them. Without the help that it has offered me, I wouldn’t have gotten my life together enough to be able to go on vacations, eat fancy dinners, or buy exercise clothes. It’s helped me succeed in my business so that I even had the option of considering anything “luxury.”
I have to be in crisis to go
While it’s usually a crisis or difficult life situation that causes people to turn to therapy, it’s by no means a prerequisite. When I first started, my marriage was falling apart. Once we worked through everything and I had dealt with my own issues individually, I decided to stop for awhile because life was SO MUCH BETTER in comparison to when I started. About two years after that, I felt stuck and depressed, so I began sessions again. We got me back on track, but this time I decided to continue going, just at longer intervals.
I see my therapist about once a month and even when I don’t think there’s much to report, I always leave feeling like I’ve improved or come to some type of revelation. For me, it’s important to have an objective third party to bounce things off of and also someone to hold me accountable for things I say I’m going to do. It’s been helpful after finding out I was pregnant because the first three months I had a tough time accepting and being happy about it because I was so afraid something was going to go wrong. By talking through that, I was able to find out where those fears came from and learn coping tools to calm myself the F down. 🙂
Every session will be heavy and hard
Most of my sessions these days I spend laughing and cracking jokes with my therapist. The thought of therapy can be scary because there’s the misconception that you go in, reveal your deepest fears and feelings, and spend the session in tears. Believe me, I am someone who does NOT like to show emotions to strangers, but by establishing that rapport and knowing you’re in a safe space, it doesn’t feel quite as hard if you do have a hard session.
When dealing with my marriage, it was hard. When I’m going just to make sure I’m not being irrational or just to check in, it’s not. It all depends on why you’re there and what you’re working through. Change and progress come through going through things that are difficult, so it’s fair to expect that. Just know that it’s not ALWAYS like that.
They won’t understand/be able to help/will judge me
A therapist is trained to be able to understand/help/not judge. If they did any of those things above, they would not be very effective at their job. It’s the same set of fears that we all have when we are about to become vulnerable with someone and it’s a mechanism designed to protect ourselves from what we feel could be rejection or ridicule (ultimately some form of pain). If at any point you feel any of these things during a therapy session, remember that not every therapist is a good fit and you’re free to try someone else.
Cost is something that turns a lot of people off from seeking help and is one reason why many consider it a “luxury.” The truth is that many are willing to work with patients on a sliding scale. When inquiring about services, ask about cost. If the cost is too high, let them know how much you can reasonably pay and try and figure out a solution that works for both of you. Very rarely will you be turned away and if they aren’t able to come down to what you can afford, they will likely be able to give you referral options that can. No matter if you have insurance or not, just communicate about finances and you’ll be surprised with the outcome.
Remember that psychiatrists, for instance, who are medical doctors, will always be more expensive than psychologists and social workers, so don’t get a quote from one psychiatrist and give up.
If you don’t have insurance, try some of these options:
- Check with local universities and hospitals as many offer support groups or graduate counseling sessions where those who are in training can provide free or reduced sessions.
- Therapy via phone and computer is increasing. (I am doing more research on this for a post in the future)
- Open Path provides middle and lower-income level individuals, couples, families, and children with access to affordable psychotherapy and mental health education services.
Going to therapy means I’m broken
Stemming from the stigma surrounding mental health, some people feel shameful about wanting or needing to go to therapy. They feel that it means they are admitting defeat or weakness and that there’s something broken in them that needs to be fixed. It doesn’t.
We live in an emotionally maladaptive world where we cope with problems by compartmentalizing, going out and getting wasted every weekend, escaping into our phones, etc. etc. None of those things are going to make you a more well-adjusted person and I would argue that these solutions to problems are far more broken than having a healthy conversation with a mental health professional.