Debunking the Therapy Myths"I’m hopeful that we can demystify some of the negative beliefs held by many regarding the care of our emotional and mental wellbeing."
In a recent episode of “Ted Lasso,” Ted attends a couple of sessions with the psychologist who has been brought in to help aid his soccer team emotionally. After a couple of sessions in which Ted leaves early, the therapist asks him about his dislike of therapy. Ted’s response, “You don’t know me. We don’t have history and yet you just expect me to spill my guts bout all the gory details of my life? But you ain’t listening because you care about me. No. You’re only listening to me because you get paid to listen to me.” And then he abruptly leaves her office. It’s an uncomfortable scene to watch. And yet, as a therapist, I sat watching and knowing that he isn’t the only one who feels the way he feels. He is an accurate representation of many who think therapy isn’t for them. And so, I’m hopeful that we can demystify some of the negative beliefs held by many regarding the care of our emotional and mental wellbeing.
Myth #1: “I don’t need therapy.”
The first myth that comes to mind held by many in our world today is that they “don’t need therapy.” Many hold this belief because they “aren’t crazy,” or they “aren’t that bad off.” Others hold this belief because therapy is just a bunch of “hooey.” Men, in general, oftentimes have a harder time attending therapy because dealing with emotions means “being weak.” The truth is life is hard. There isn’t a single man, woman or child who at some point in his/her life doesn’t experience some form of extreme pain or suffering—the death of a loved one, a difficult diagnosis, loss, trauma, abuse, difficult transitions, grief in all its varied forms.
Studies have shown that in the past two years alone, mental health issues have increased exponentially because of the trauma the pandemic brought upon the whole world. While many people will never seek the help of a licensed professional counselor, all of us have experienced or will experience a season in life in which the help of a therapist could go a long way in helping receive the support and healing needed while navigating those difficult places. Just because a person isn’t “that bad off” or “crazy” in the way we all think of someone suffering from extreme psychosis, doesn’t mean we don’t all, from time to time, need the help and support of an individual who has been trained to deal with the emotional minefields life can throw at us sometimes.
Myth #2: “I tried it and it didn’t work for me.”
The second myth I have heard used with extreme regularity is from those who have attended therapy. Their reasoning for not returning to therapy is usually the one that goes, “I tried that, and it didn’t work for me.” When a person says that to me, I am left with more questions than anything else. For how long did you attend therapy?
So many are quick to give up on the process before real change can take root. Unlearning old ways of dealing with problems can take time. Therapy is not a quick fix. Therapy equips individuals, couples and families with new ways of thinking and interacting with one another to break patterns and ways of thinking that are creating disorder and chaos in our lives. Unlearning old ways and old patterns takes time.
My next question is also, “did you do the work in between sessions?” Therapists work hard to make sure they’re giving their clients everything they need to move forward in the world in healthier ways, but many times, people don’t want to change, or they aren’t willing to do the work. That’s okay. However, there is a difference between therapy not working and not putting in the work to create change.
Last, but not least, perhaps it wasn’t that therapy didn’t work but perhaps it was the therapist-client relationship that wasn’t quite what was needed. While I believe that therapists do their best to work with all clients of all backgrounds, beliefs, cultures and stages of life, there are times when your first choice of therapist may not be the right fit. You need to advocate for your own mental well-being. Find the therapist who is the right fit for you.
And finally, Ted was wrong. Therapists DO care. Yes, we get paid to listen. Yes, we get paid to diagnose. Yes, we get paid to find the source of a client’s pain and help them manage it. That doesn’t mean we don’t care. We care a great deal, and not just about our craft. We care about the human lives and souls that are entrusted to us on a regular basis. We do this work because we take that responsibility seriously. The privilege one experiences in hearing the stories of one’s clients is immense. I am honored when I get to be the one to hear. There is no greater honor in the world than that.
Joy works in the mental health field practicing Marriage and Family Therapy as well as working for the Bay Ridge Brooklyn Salvation Army corps. She longs to live at the intersection of faith and mental health by providing teaching, counseling and hope to those of us experiencing brokenness. Joy currently resides in Brooklyn, NY with her husband, two incredible children and their grandpa dog.