I still remember the first time I went to a therapy session. I was 17 years old, and I saw my therapist at a family services center near my house. I was confused during most of our session so while I was trying to answer her questions honestly, I didn’t also know what she was getting at. I saw this therapist for a few months, and then I didn’t give it any thought until a few years later. But in the ten years since that day, there is so much I’ve learned about therapy: it’s goal, it’s purpose, how it works for individuals, etc. But I had one huge misconception that I didn’t shake off until recently, and I want to share it today in the hope that it can help anyone who thinks therapy might be worth exploring.
What Was I Doing in Therapy?
When I first started going to therapy regularly, I didn’t ask a lot of questions. I know the idea of therapy is to be the person talking – it’s about you and your thoughts and feelings – but also, wouldn’t it be important to know what you’re doing there? What your goals are? I’ve seen at least a dozen mental health professionals to tackle my depression and anxiety, and I’ve learned something from each experience. But out of all those people, I would say there were only two instances where I learned more about therapy, what it’s designed to be, and how it can be used in the most effective way possible. Understanding some of the nuances involved in therapy helped me figure out what I was doing there, and it helped me tackle my biggest misconception about therapy – that there is only type, and therapy is a one-size-fits-all-approach.
Is There Only One ‘Type’ Of Therapy?
Short answer: NO. There is more than one type of therapy.
Long answer: When I first started going to therapy, I can’t say that I knew exactly what I was doing or what was going on. I just knew some things felt off, and I wanted to learn more about that. What followed were years and years of self-teaching. I talked to mental health professionals, I read things online, I watched videos about different therapy techniques. But all of this learning busted the myth that there is only one type of therapy, and that you have to use that therapy to work for you. I never had a therapist who broke down what my options were because I didn’t even know I had options to begin with. Did you know there are more than fifty different therapeutic approaches? I definitely didn’t! Once I learned that I had options, I started to be more vocal about what I want.
While I’m very pleased to see that more and more people are realizing that it’s okay to seek help through therapy, I think there’s some danger in that. Telling someone to go to therapy seems like waving a magic wand these days – that simply by going, your issues or problems are already on there way to disappearing. I’ve been in therapy (on and off) for almost ten years, and while I’m better at managing my symptoms, I’m still dealing with some of the same things I walked into that room with at 17 years old. That’s not meant to sound depressing, but rather encouraging. Learning that I can create my therapy experience exactly the way I want was empowering, and it helped me realize what I need from therapy, which has helped me be as high-functioning as I can be.
I had plenty of other misconceptions about therapy, but I’ll admit that this one is the biggest and most important one. What was your biggest misconception about therapy? Let me know in the comments!