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7 Myths and 7 Truths about Psychotherapy

By Gay Falkowski

If you’ve talked with your doctor about feeling depressed, he or she might have referred you to a psychologist for further evaluation. While depression can be treated by medication alone, research has shown that a combination of medication and psychotherapy is often the most effective approach to treatment. A trained professional can work with you to get rid of the negative thoughts and beliefs that may contribute to your depression and guide you to more healthy ways of thinking. Don’t let misconceptions about psychotherapy keep you from following through with doctor’s orders. Here are seven common myths, along with seven truths, courtesy of the American Psychological Association:

Myth: Only crazy people go to therapy.

Truth: People go to therapy for many reasons. Work stress, relationship problems, death of a loved one, major life transitions — all these issues and more can lead someone to seek help. A benefit of therapy is you can become a better problem solver. In fact, getting help is now considered a sign of resourcefulness. In recent years, the mind-body health connection has become well established.

Myth: Talking to family and friends is just as effective as going to a psychotherapist.

Truth: Psychologists typically have years of specialized education, training, and experience that helps them identify unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors. You can be totally honest with your therapist without worrying about what you reveal. Plus, they are objective. Support from family and friends is important in difficult times but if you’ve been struggling for a while, get help from a trained professional.

Myth: You can get better on your own if you try hard enough and keep a positive attitude.

Truth: If there is a biological component to your problem, especially with depression and anxiety, overcoming your problem on your own will be incredibly difficult, if not impossible. Admitting you need help and reaching out is a sign of strength and the first step in getting better.

Myth: Psychologists just listen to you vent, so why pay someone to hear you complain?

Truth: Psychotherapy begins with many questions and plenty of listening, but that’s so the therapist can learn your history and how you approach different situations. However, the process is very interactive and you and your therapist will work together to problem solve.

Myth: A psychologist will just blame all your problems on your parents or your childhood experiences.

Truth: Exploring past experiences is common in therapy because the past is sometimes relevant to resolving current problems. It also helps to understand your coping strategies and behavior patterns as they relate to your history. Sometimes the psychologist will focus only on the present and the crisis or ongoing issue that brought you into treatment.

Myth: You’ll need to stay in psychotherapy for many years or maybe even the rest of your life.

Truth: The goal of psychotherapy is to empower you to function better on your own. If you are concerned, talk to your therapist about a timetable for your treatment during your initial visit. Everyone moves at a different pace during therapy and that pace can be difficult to predict. But having a plan is good.

Myth: If you use your health insurance to pay for services, your employer will know you are in psychotherapy.

Truth: Psychotherapy is bound by the rules of confidentiality. You and you alone are in charge of who sees your health records. The only people who know about your therapy are you, your psychologist, and anyone you authorize your psychologist to speak to (such as another doctor).