The Top 10 Myths About Therapy… Written by a Therapist

1. My problems aren’t serious enough for therapy.

Sometimes we minimize what we’re experiencing, or compare ourselves with others who have “really serious” problems. The truth is, therapy can be helpful for everyone. 

Fred Rogers said, “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable.” Talking about feelings and problems with a professional can be helpful for a lot of people.

2. I don’t need therapy- I have my friends!

It’s great that you have good friends- we all need that kind of support! But therapy is different. Your best friend might give you advice, but therapists rarely do. Instead, therapists support you to gain insight, learn new strategies, and obtain information. 

3. I’ll be in therapy forever.

Not the case. There is a wide range of how long someone is in therapy, depending on the person’s diagnosis and unique experiences.  

According to research by the American Psychological Association, many people experience symptom improvements in 12 to 16 sessions- that’s just three to four months.  

4. My therapist will make me talk about things I don’t want to talk about.

In therapy you should never have to talk about things that you don’t want to. You are the boss of what you work on and when. Some days you might want to talk about difficult things, and in other sessions you might not want to. You are always in charge. 

5. My therapist will know all the answers. 

Don’t we wish! It’s important to remember that therapists are just people. While therapists have education and training in things like counseling techniques and child development, we don’t know everything and certainly don’t know everything about you. 

6. All my therapist is going to say is “how do you feel about that?”

I can’t tell you that your therapist will never ask you that question (it is one that a lot of us like!). But your therapist can also help you practice new skills and introduce other techniques, like non-verbal or experiential therapies. 

Other times, they might just listen and provide validation as you make meaning of your experiences and feelings, which can be extremely powerful.

7. Therapists just blame everything on your mother. 

While many therapists believe in the importance of our earliest relationships, not everything is going to be blamed on your parents. Sometimes people want to understand “why I am the way I am,” and relationships with family members may be explored. Other times, the issues you are working on have nothing to do with your early relationships. 

8. I’ll have to lay on a couch.

We all know that movie scene where the main character lays on a plush couch, spilling their guts to a therapist, who is sitting behind them taking notes. In reality, the majority of therapists today do not use the couch, you’ll just be sitting in a regular chair. 

9. They’ll make me take a bunch of medications. 

Certain conditions can be best treated by a combination of medication and therapy. Your therapist wants you to feel better with the least invasive treatment, and for many people that might just be therapy alone. If therapy is not enough to treat your symptoms, your therapist will refer you to a psychiatrist (or another professional who can prescribe medications). 

10. No one I know has gone to therapy. 

Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  in 2021 indicated that 20.3% of U.S. adults had received mental health treatment in the prior 12 months. And the World Health Organizationreported that one in four people worldwide experiences a mental health issue in any given year. So, while it is possible that no one you know has ever gone to therapy, it is more likely that they have. 

Ready to start therapy? Look for a therapist who is licensed in your state and has a license in good standing. A good therapist will take the time to learn about you, explain what types of therapy they are recommending, and feel like a good fit. To find a therapist, talk to your primary care doctor or people you trust, request referrals from your insurance company, or check out therapist directories, like Psychology Today or TherapyDen.