Dispelling the Myths of Therapy
Gurpreet Paul, Psy.D. , Extension 334

 

Therapy is often a mystery to people. Many do not know what to expect or how it works.  Often, a reliance on TV, books or movies, others’ opinions, previous therapy experiences, or medical professionals informs a person’s perceptions of therapy. It seems, however, many myths exist of what therapy is, how it works, and what the role of the therapist exactly is.  As a way to demystify therapy, I would like to explore what therapy is and what it is not, dispelling some common myths.

 

Myth:  A therapist or psychologist can read my mind

Fact:    A therapist or psychologist has been trained in empathy

 

While it is true that therapists cannot read minds, it is often the case that a therapist is empathic to your experience.  Empathy is one of the core ingredients of therapy. When experiencing empathy, a person feels understood, seen and heard by their therapist.  Through this experience of being “received,” a person can begin the process of understanding themselves and start walking the path of healing and change.

 

Myth:  A therapist or psychologist gives advice on how to solve problems

Fact:   A therapist or psychologist empowers an individual

 

A therapist rarely tells a client what to do or "fixes" a problem.  Instead, depending on personal style, a therapist will use different techniques to facilitate a person to resolve their own problems. This is done through a collaborative process with the ultimate goal to empower a client.  This means that a therapist equips a client with certain ways to respond to themselves in a manner that fosters awareness and change outside of the therapy room.  Part of empowerment is to unconditionally accept a client.  Unconditional acceptance is another core ingredient of therapy.  When experiencing unconditional acceptance, a person is able to turn off various constraints they have placed on themselves and begin to feel safe to change behaviors that feel problematic. 

 

Myth: A therapist or psychologist will psychoanalyze me

Fact: A therapist or psychologist is a guide

 

A common misconception is that a therapist is going to make some analysis as to why you are the way you are and attempt to break down your “defense mechanisms” to get you to see what you are actually doing.  Although it is true that a therapist may wish to foster a level of awareness that facilitates change, a therapist is more like a guide who tentatively points to different hypotheses regarding sources of distress, behavior, or emotions. The client is encouraged to accept or reject such hypotheses based on whether it fits or not.

 

Myth: A therapist or psychologist is a "blank slate," or is "behind the couch."

Fact:  A therapist or psychologist strives to be their genuine self

 

Another core ingredient of therapy is for the therapist to be real, genuine and authentic.  As social beings, humans define themselves through relationships.  This means we make sense of ourselves, who we are, how we think and feel directly through relating with another person.  It would be difficult to speak about one's deepest thoughts and feelings to a robotic therapist!!  Instead, a genuine and authentic therapist is fully present and fully themselves with you in the session.

 

In conclusion, therapy with me is a collaborative endeavor between my client and myself.  While in therapy with me, a client will experience empathy and unconditional acceptance from my genuine and real self.  The process of therapy includes facilitating self awareness and change through learning the sources of problematic experiences and gaining empowerment to change responses to them.  This is achieved by experiencing the core ingredients of therapy and through various techniques utilized by therapists. Many of these techniques foster change by facilitating a new way of responding and being.