Your perception (i.e. what you believe, think and feel) about an activity determines whether you will decide to engage in it or not.
For instance, let’s take a look at exercise.
Exercise is often seen as a positive activity to engage in for mental health and wellbeing reasons.
As it is said to relieve stress, anxiety and depression.
Read more about the mental health benefits of exercise here.
However, if you believe all exercise is boring or it doesn’t work for improving your own mental health, you would be less likely to engage in any form of exercise.
On the other hand, you might think going to the gym is boring but actually, yoga is more your kind of exercise.
Therefore, believing yoga is more likely to support you in improving your own mental health.
So instead of believing all exercise is boring…
You’re actually believing one form of exercise is boring (i.e the gym) but an alternative form of exercise like yoga is more suitable for you.
Therefore, you would be more likely to engage in yoga than the gym.
Why your perception of therapy matters
Your perception (i.e. what you believe, think and feel) about therapy, also determines whether you are likely to engage in it or not.
Hence, why many people (like you perhaps) decide (or decided), not to engage with therapy as they often have a negative perception of it.
Changing your perception
So, in the hope of changing your perception about working with a therapist…
My goal is to debunk four myths you, your friends and/or family may have about therapy through talking about the truth of what happens in therapy.
So here it goes…
That said, let me now ask you ‘what are you believing about therapy?’
And take your time answering this question.
Heck, write your answer down if you need to.
Since what you believe to be true about therapy, isn’t necessarily a true reflection of it.
And by writing them down you get to question them.
As I say towards the end of my post on considering therapy:
Your beliefs are only true because you are believing them to be true so they become true in your thoughts, words and actions.
And all it means is you are believing them.
But at any point, you can decide to change your mind about what you’re believing through deciding to seek the support of a therapist.
Similarly to how I say you would do by transforming this one belief to change your life.
As you explore in-depth your thoughts, feelings, actions and results.
What happens in therapy #1: You (the client) do NOT do all the talking
The perception of therapists sitting across the client saying nothing throughout the whole session, I feel, comes from the media’s portrayal of therapy and therapists.
In particular, comedy films and TV shows, which aim to entertain and make an audience laugh.
And whilst they serve their purpose of entertaining an audience…
Do you (and other real people) struggling in any area of their life a disservice.
As it influences, shapes and/or reinforces already existing negative perceptions of therapy and therapists.
Therefore, preventing you and others from getting the support you need.
As you interpret it as giving you ‘the permission’ not to engage with therapy.
Therefore, aligning with exactly what you thought.
Hence, why you can’t trust your thoughts because they are biased to your beliefs.
What’s wrong with this belief: What to say in therapy?
Perceiving therapists in this way may knowingly/unknowingly…
Spur on your fear (and belief) of potentially having nothing to say in therapy at some point in the therapy process.
i.e. before you commit to therapy, six weeks, a month or so down the line of seeing a therapist.
As I discuss more in my post considering therapy.
Therefore, deterring you from seeking out and working with a therapist.
Spinning the perception ‘you (the client) do all the talking’ on it’s head
Yes granted you will need to do the talking at the beginning of each session as you set the focus for the session, not your therapist.
And things may come up at various points during the session, which will be beneficial for you to raise at the time.
But aside from that, your therapist will support you in contextualising your past and present experience(s).
Contextualising your experience(s)
For instance, therapists do this by bringing in a multitude of different theories from spirituality to metaphysics to neuroscience.
As a result, making you feel safe to express anything that comes to your mind in future no matter how embarrassing or ashamed of it you might be.
Since, in the end, you’ll realise nothing you say is embarrassing or shameful.
It’s only your perception of it…
(as a result of the reaction, you’ve previously received to certain disclosures you’ve made to family members, friends, classmates e.t.c)
…your subconscious mind is making it so (i.e. shameful and embarrasing).
Asking you questions
Also, your therapist will support you when you struggle to find anything to say by asking you questions.
Or you might even have some of your own questions to ask your therapist about what he/she is communicating.
Accepting you have nothing to say
Lastly, if you’re therapist can tell this is a big insecurity for you they may provide you with reassuring words to confirm it’s okay to have nothing to say.
On one occasion, in my session, I admitted I didn’t have anything else/know what else to say and my therapist simply said:
And in my sessions, my therapist did more of the talking than I did because I liked listening more than I liked talking.
Or so I thought anyway.
My therapist, on the other hand, would probably have something different to say about that though.
For instance, it’s a sign I’m struggling to ask for what I need.
What happens in therapy #2: Therapy does NOT dig solely into your past
The next belief some may have is therapy only seeks to explore your past and so it cannot make life better in this present moment.
When I think about this, immediately I’m like I can’t be bothered with that. The past is the past let’s just leave it there.
Probably because the past is painful and I don’t want to feel the difficult emotions which come with it.
But to disguise this, I tell myself all that matters to me is what’s going (or more so not going on) in my life today.
And a part of me believes exploring my past is a waste of time as I also don’t believe the answers can be found there.
HOWEVER, the truth is your past and your relationship with your family especially, cannot be overlooked.
As the events taking place in your life today are not occurring in isolation from the past and your relationship with your family.
In fact, they are intertwined and coincide with what’s going (or not going on) in your life today whether you want to believe it or not.
Therefore, although the past is referred to during your sessions because it has to be referred to, it’s not the sole focus.
The present, what you want and envision for your future, is also a very important aspect of therapy.
What happens in therapy #3: It takes longer than a year
When I started getting therapy, I didn’t expect how long it would take.
However, I did believe a year was going to be sufficient and I did the classic thing of as soon as I started to see benefits, I quit.
Rather than seeing it as a reason to carry on with it.
So after a year out of therapy, I realised it didn’t resolve my struggles the way I hoped (or thought) it did (or would).
So I decided to return. And here I am now.
And I’m glad I did because I’ve realised there are so many depths, which require work and time to uncover.
Therefore, sadly there is no time frame for your personal development, growth and transformation in therapy.
…The more depth you’ll discover about who you are, who others are and life itself and so the more confident and happier you’ll feel.
So honestly I say the longer the better.
The expense of seeing a therapist
Now I’m aware (as I say that) alarm bells of the financial cost of this may be ringing in your ears.
Which this post 5 ways not to waste your time (or money) in therapy may help with.
However, in my opinion, there is no better financial cost than this one.
As the value you’ll gain in return…
i.e. in your relationship with yourself, others, money, your love life, food, health and any other areas in your life that matter to you…
Exceeds the value you ‘think’ or can ever expect you’re going to get from it.
All it requires is you to trust in the unknown.
As I talk about in more detail in my post Considering therapy? Why you need to ignore these three fears.
Using therapy as a crutch
Don’t get me wrong though, this isn’t about using therapy as a crutch to avoid taking responsibility for your life.
In other words, what you’re believing, thinking, feeling and the results your getting in your life.
It’s about using therapy as a source of support in understanding and changing your perspective on:
- Why you are unhappy with your life as it is in this moment in time; and
- What the specific causes of your unhappiness are.
So you can take different actions to the ones you have been taking and eventually (over time) do see a change in the results you are getting in your life.
As you figure out how to get what you need from outside the therapy room.
Nothing stays the same
Another important point to remember here is, nothing in your life stays the same, even when it seems like it is.
For instance, your confidence levels and mental health, always shift and change according to what’s going on in your life.
So one minute you might think and feel you don’t need therapy.
And the next, something happens in your life, which you think you resolved in therapy but didn’t.
So you do need therapy again.
Therefore, to realise the benefits of therapy you need to do the work, commit to weekly sessions for longer than a year and be patient.
As I discuss further in my post 3 qualities you need to make the most of your Psychotherapy.
What happens in therapy #4: Therapy DOES work
The most detrimental belief about therapy anyone can have I believe is believing therapy will not work so is pointless.
As this immediately switches people off from working with a therapist to change their limiting beliefs.
As I’ve said above, therapy requires you do the work and takes time, patience and commitment.
And in the same way, success doesn’t happen overnight, neither does transformation in therapy either.
After all, as I also say in my post 3 qualities you need to make the most of your Psychotherapy…
Therapy is like any other relationship in life, which takes time to build.
And the success of your therapy sessions are dependent on the quality of your relationship with your therapist.
Read more about why the client-therapist relationship matters here.
One last note before I start wrapping this up…
It feels to me and of course, I may be wrong that so many people take pride in:
- not having worked with a therapist; or
- not needing/having to have worked with a therapist for a significant amount of time
However, I personally don’t feel either of the above options is something to be proud of.
Actually, if I’m honest, I feel it reinforces three of your beliefs:
- There is something wrong with seeking outside support
- Other people’s beliefs about therapy are more important than your own wants, needs and desires
- The need to be self-reliant.
Since it’s easy to go to your friends, family and/or colleagues (the people you are familiar with) to ask for help or support.
But it takes great courage and strength to seek support from someone who isn’t familiar to you.
Who may know more than your family and friends do.
And by the way, self-reliance isn’t a negative thing.
But I do feel what many people have been brought up to believe is self-reliance, isn’t true.
(e.g. needing to do everything on your own, not leaning on or reaching out for support from others).
And actually, it widens the class divide between the rich and poor.
As I believe the wealthier people amongst us are more likely to reach out for support than their less well off counterparts.
Not necessarily from seeking the support of a therapist alone.
But also when it comes to networking in order to progress their careers forward.
There you go…the four truths about what happens in therapy:
You (the client) do NOT do all the talking; Therapy does NOT dig solely into your past; It takes longer than a year; and it does work.
Question: Now over to you. I would love to know of any negative portrayals you may have heard about therapists and therapy, which I’ve not listed above.
So please leave a comment in the comment section below to let me know.