If you are thinking about seeking help for the first time, you would naturally be wondering what to expect. After all, it takes courage and trust that it will help you, so you’d want to know what you are in for.
Even if you have been to see somebody before, there may still be gaps in what you know about therapy. So let’s try to debunk the common myths of what happens behind a therapist’s closed door.
Can psychologists ‘read your mind’ or do they use secret tricks in therapy?
This is a common one, and at no surprise, as this has been the way pop culture makes it seem.
People come out of sessions feeling deeply understood or experiencing ‘lightbulb aha moments’; as if everything suddenly made sense. However, if mind-reading was possible, psychologists as a profession would be near extinct and probably be called something else. You would only need to see a therapist maybe once, and they’d be able to quickly unlock all of your problems and peer into your mind. Whether fortunate or not, this is not the case.
In fact, modern treatments involve training you to become your ‘own’ therapist. Meaning you are supported in sessions to learn coping strategies that you then practise in your everyday life – where it counts. When you know what is helping and why it sheds the impression that Psychologists are mind readers and full of tricks.
I’m not sure if my problems are serious enough for therapy. Do I have to be in a crisis to get something from it?
Another misconception about therapy is that it is something you do only when you have hit rock bottom. Understandably, a major life change or crisis may be how you first get through the doors and into a therapist’s office. You may be unsure how to cope with big life changes and find yourself struggling with lots of new and painful feelings. What can be helpful to know is your brain usually is better at learning new things when it is not overloaded with these big, big emotions. This is why one of the first things your therapist may work on with you is helping you manage those feelings better. Then, you will likely find it easier to think clearly about your situation and to know what is best for you.
In the same token, therapy also suits people who may be feeling better overall, but want to continue accessing support to maintain insights and learnings from sessions. It can help to use therapy as a time to review what you are doing that’s working to keep you well and to build upon and practise these strategies over a period of time with the support of your therapist. This ‘space’ also gives you and your therapist a chance to look more closely under the hood and to dig deeper into what else may be contributing to your mental health issues.
Will talking about my feelings open up a can of worms and make everything harder?
You may also be worried about letting all your feelings out and believe that instead, it’s better to keep them locked up and pushed deep down. We get that – it’s a very normal thing that humans do to cope with life’s stresses. In the short term, this may work, but in the long term, it may not.
Learning how to cope with your emotions can be more successful in the long run and get you back on track faster. We understand that the first step is often the hardest. In therapy, you will come to build an understanding of why these feelings come up in the first place and more helpful ways to respond to these.
Will I be given solutions that take my feelings away?
Of course, we don’t want to feel bad, sad or mad. We naturally want to strive to feel the ‘good’ and ‘happy’ moments and rid ourselves of our emotional baggage as quickly as possible.
This is a big topic that can be explored more deeply in therapy, but it can help to understand that therapy is more about helping you help yourself. As emotions (the good and the hard ones) are all part of being human, it would be unrealistic to ‘stop’ having these, or to expect that they would disappear in just a few sessions, or just by talking about them alone.
It is always the aim of your therapist to provide a safe space for you to explore the corners of your emotions, and help you find more ways to cope. A realistic goal would be to learn strategies to lower the intensity of those feelings so that they pass by faster, and so you can get back to problem-solving healthier solutions to improve your life situation.
Will it just feel like venting or talking to a family member or friend?
While there are some similarities between how it feels to share with someone you know and a therapist, this only scrapes the surface. Close friends and family can give you that unique ‘insider’ view of your problems and know ‘just’ what you need to hear or advice that you can follow.
A Psychologist will take an ‘outsider’ view, and avoid advice giving or making judgements about what is good or bad for you. Psychologists are trained to understand that what helps more is prompting you to consider all the factors that could impact your decision-making and choices so that you are empowered to find your own solutions. After all, you know your life best!
They deeply listen to your concerns and help you to link patterns in your behaviour that seem to keep you stuck. Simply, they help you look at your life from different angles so you can understand those patterns, without telling you what to do.
If you have more questions about what to expect in therapy, you can book an intake call with one of our clinicians.