What comes to your mind when you hear the word, “therapy?” Does a mental image flash before your eyes of a client laying on a couch, talking about his childhood, while a cold, detached therapist inserts a “Hmm… that’s interesting” or a “How did that make you feel?” from time to time, all the while jotting mysterious notes down on a legal pad?
When I sit down for an initial therapy session with a client, I’ll typically ask him or her, “What is it you were expecting from/hoping to get out of therapy?” Unfortunately, I am repeatedly disheartened, as I hear the answer, “I don’t know” again and again. Clients come to therapy because there’s something wrong in their lives, and they are at a loss for how to fix it. Sometimes, they may not even be able to pinpoint exactly what it is that’s “wrong.” They were, perhaps, referred by their doctor, or by a loved one who suggested they “get some counseling.” And they hope that by seeing a therapist, somehow, they’ll get some much-needed relief from their distress. The thing is, for most people, that “somehow” is very ambiguous and mysterious. Many people question whether or not there even is a legit “somehow.” (e.g., “I don’t believe in therapy.”) All they know is that they are suffering, and they want the pain to go away. So they decide, “I’ll give it a try and see if it works.”
Somehow, they find their way into a therapist’s office – often very nervous, anxious, and skeptical. Some people don’t even get that far. Many people avoid therapy altogether, feeling hopeless, wondering, “How can talking to someone about my feelings make the problem any better?” or making statements like, “I don’t trust anyone I’d have to pay to have listen to me.”
It’s not surprising that people are wary and unsure about seeing a therapist, because the stereotypical version of therapy that people are exposed to – mainly in movies and on TV, is pretty terrible. They see bad therapists who: act unethically, often through their horrific lack of boundaries, or their use of ridiculous, provocative interventions and/or shame tactics that end up causing even more damage, or who are completely detached and aloof, offering nothing really tangible or helpful at all.
And it’s SO frustrating. As a therapist working in the field, with real people facing real pain and hardship, I want to clear up these common misconceptions. My hope is that, more and more, clients will have a realistic understanding of what therapy actually is, and will enter therapy with confidence and an accurate idea of what to expect.
In the following weeks there will be blogs posted about:
- Who can benefit from therapy?
- Assessment, Diagnosis and working with your insurance
- Therapy is work, hard work!
- Therapy is time limited, not an endless process
So stay tuned to learn more about the reality of the therapeutic process and how it can benefit those struggling with everyday stressors.
Robyn Huntley, LMFT is an outpatient therapist in the PrairieCare Chaska location and is currently accepting new clients.