INTERVIEW: Common misconceptions about psychotherapy


It's national psychotherapy day, and Marriage and Family Therapist Jennifer Sils is visiting us in the News 3 studio to talk about some common misconceptions about psychotherapy.

Myth: Only people who are “really screwed up” go to therapy.

Truth: People come to psychotherapy for a variety of reasons, but the main one is: to feel better, to get relief. We all want relief when we are suffering, or feel stuck. Sometimes we don’t know what is wrong, we just need a safe place to get support.

Myth: all you need for depression or anxiety is medicine.

Truth: medication can work wonders, it can save lives. However, think of a problem like heart disease or diabetes: medicine can save your life, right? But if you want the best quality of life, if you want to thrive, you need to make life-style changes. It is the same way with medication for medicine for depression, anxiety, etc. Therapy can help you make life-long changes to the way you think and interact with the world and other people that lead to much better outcomes than just taking a pill.

Myth: “Therapy is only for naval gazers; it is self indulgent; I can solve my problems myself.”

Truth: I actually love when people feel like they come into therapy feeling like they can solve this themselves. Those clients tend to work hard, learn what they need to know, and do really well. But I would suggest that we all need a bit of help in life from time to time: especially if your relationships aren’t going well, you’re drinking too much, you feel sad or angry a great deal of the time… sometimes we can’t just pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, we need a guide, a consultant, an expert. Active participation in therapy leads to the best outcomes, so that attitude can do wonders.

Myth: “Therapists are screwed up - that’s why they are attracted to this field.” Or the opposite, they must be like Mary Poppins: They have to be Practically Perfect In Every Way.

Truth: People become therapists because they like helping people solve their problems, they have the capacity to sit with people who are in a great deal of pain, they have high levels or empathy and compassion, and they are fascinated by people and their stories.

Myth: In therapy you lie on a couch while the therapist sits behind you taking notes, saying nothing. For years. And years. The Woody Allen kind of therapy, right?

Truth: The truth is there are many types of therapists, but very few work that way any more. You are more likely to run across a therapist who is a wonderful listener, helps you set goals, formulates a plan with you, is more engaged and dynamic. It truly is a partnership, and it really can heal lives.