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  • Writer's pictureKanchan Gupta

Psychotherapy: Myths vs Facts


Not sure if therapy is for you? Read on to challenge some myths that have often been associated with counselling and therapy :)


There are a wide number of definitions available for psychotherapy:

“The purchase of friendship” (Schofield, 1964)

“When one person with an emotional disorder gets help from another person who has less of an emotional disorder” (J. Watkins, 1983)

“A conversation with a therapeutic purpose” (Korchin, 1976)

According to Wolberg (1967) psychotherapy is the treatment, by psychological means, of problems of an emotional nature in which a trained person deliberately establishes a professional relationship with the patient with the object a) of removing, modifying or retarding existing symptoms b) of mediating disturbed patterns of behaviour and c) of promoting positive personality growth and development.

From the above definitions it is clear that the term "psychotherapy" refers to any therapeutic practice that can be classified as psychological in the treatment of emotional or psychological issues.

If your knowledge about psychotherapy comes from TV or the movies, you may have some misguided ideas about what actually goes on in the office of a practicing psychologist. In order to benefit from psychotherapy, make sure you know the truth behind psychotherapy and what it has to offer.

Mythbusters

Asking for help is a sign of weakness

Before starting psychotherapy, people try to solve their problems on their own for weeks, months and even years but end up realising that it was not enough. Deciding to start psychotherapy does not mean that you are a failure, just like it does not mean you have failed when you were not able to fix your own television. Some disorders like depression, anxiety or panic attacks may have a biological component and this makes it extremely difficult to heal on your own. Having the courage to reach out for help is a symbol of strength rather than weakness and in reality, it is the first step towards feeling better.


Psychotherapy is not for everyone

People seek psychotherapy for a variety of reasons in everyday life. Some pursue psychotherapy for treatment of depression, phobia or substance abuse while others want help coping with major life transitions like the loss of a job, a divorce or the death of a loved one, or changing problematic or unhealthy behaviours. Psychotherapy can benefit anyone in becoming a better problem solver.

People used to hesitate getting help for psychological or behavioural concerns due to the stigma attached with mental health, but things are changing and getting help is now seen as a sign of resourcefulness. Taking care of one’s mental health is being valued and it ensures good physical health, often known as the mind-body health connection. Physical symptoms may be a manifestation of emotional problems; when we are physically ill, we may develop emotional issues. Thus, it has now become important to prioritise mental health.



You can’t share everything with your therapist

Exploring childhood experiences and key events that have impacted your life may be a part of psychotherapy. Therapy aims to assist you and your psychologist to comprehend your views and feelings, present coping mechanisms, or notice patterns that have emerged by gathering information from your family background. The purpose of encouraging you to look past is to help you better comprehend your current situation and make positive adjustments for the future.

In some cases, however, your psychologist will prefer to focus solely on the current problem or crisis that led you to treatment and will not go into detail about your background. You will learn how to change the beliefs or habits that are contributing to your problem. Psychologists who practice an eclectic approach to psychotherapy will know how to guide the session so that it includes both prior discoveries and reflections on current problematic ideas or actions. So, it is very important to be open in front of your psychologist and not hide the details from them.


Psychotherapy is not confidential

Remember that the principles of confidentiality are fundamental in psychotherapy. Only you have the right to distribute your medical records to a third party. Only you, your psychologist, and anybody to whom you provide written permission for your psychologist to speak about your psychotherapy sessions are aware of them (such as a physician or family member). Confidentiality is only broken in specific cases such as when the client is at risk of harming themselves or someone else; or when the therapist is required to produce the client’s reports in the court of law.


Psychotherapy is just listening and talking

When you are having a hard time, support from family and friends whom you trust is important but a psychologist can offer more than just talking. Having years of specialized education, training and experience makes them experts in understanding and treating intricate issues. The effectiveness of psychotherapy has been proved by research. Psychotherapeutic approaches are based on scientific research and thus, it is more than “just listening and talking”.



Psychotherapy is unidirectional

The process of psychotherapy often begins by the psychologist asking you to describe the concern that has brought you to their office but that is just a starting point. Therapists also ensure to gather appropriate and relevant data about your background, history of your issues and other major areas of your life, and the ways you have tried to cope with those issues. Psychotherapy is usually an interactive, collaborative practice which is centered on communication and the patient's active participation in joint issue-solving. Your therapist may assign you homework or reading materials so that you can practice new skills between sessions or learn more about a specific topic. You and your psychologist will work together to identify issues, develop goals and track your progress.


Psychotherapy is forever

No, psychotherapy is not forever. Psychotherapy is a highly personalized process and everyone moves at their own pace in psychotherapy. In one study, for example, half of the psychotherapy patients benefited after just eight sessions, while 75 percent improved after six-months. Duration is something you and your psychologist can discuss during your initial meetings as you work on your treatment plan. Your therapist's objective is to equip you to function better on your own and not to keep you on as a client forever.




Psychotherapy can be a beneficial and rewarding process. A therapist and a client are supposed to have a safe and private relationship during therapy. However, because therapy takes place in a private setting, it is quite simple to buy into all the myths and misconceptions that have been created around the nebulous concept of what therapy might entail. Hope this article helped you to debunk the myths surrounding therapy. In order to evolve, you must do so on your own terms and you must also accept yourself wholeheartedly. You don't merely exist when your mind is healthy; you thrive. Therapy supports you in achieving that in a safe environment.

You can reach out to The Social Therapist (TST) team for any kind of professional help. The primary goal of each therapist on the TST team is to provide a secure, judgment-free environment for the client to explore the issues they want to work on, learn about, and develop coping mechanisms. You can contact us on shiromichaturvedi@gmail.com or visit our website https://www.shiromichaturvedi.com/ for more details.

References

Get the facts about psychotherapy. (n.d.). Https://Www.Apa.Org. https://www.apa.org/topics/psychotherapy/myths


Sommers-Flanagan, J., & Sommers-Flanagan, R. (2018). Counseling and Psychotherapy Theories in Context and Practice: Skills, Strategies, and Techniques (3rd ed.).


Understanding psychotherapy and how it works. (n.d.). Https://Www.Apa.Org. https://www.apa.org/topics/psychotherapy/understanding


7 Common Myths about Psychotherapy | Psych Central. (n.d.). https://psychcentral.com/health/myths-about-therapy



Author: Kanchan Gupta, The Social Therapist

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