I still remember the first time I went to a therapy session. I was 17 years old and saw my therapist at a family service center near my home. I was confused for most of our session. While I was trying to answer her questions honestly, I didn’t know what she was getting at either. I saw this therapist for a few months and didn’t think about it until a few years later. But in the ten years since that day, I’ve learned so much about therapy: goal, purpose, how it works for individuals, etc. But I had a huge misunderstanding that I haven’t shaken off until recently. and I want to share it today in the hope that it can help anyone who thinks therapy might be worth exploring.
What did I do in therapy?
When I started going to therapy regularly, I didn’t ask a lot of questions. I know the idea of therapy is to be the person who speaks – it’s about you and your thoughts and feelings – but wouldn’t it also be important to know what you are doing there? What are your goals? I’ve seen at least a dozen mental health workers help manage my depression and anxiety, and I’ve learned something from each experience. But from all of these people, I would say that there have only been two cases where I have learned more about the therapy, how it was developed, and how it can be used as effectively as possible. Understanding some of the nuances associated with therapy helped me figure out what I was doing there, and it helped me address my biggest misconception about therapy – that there is only one type and therapy is a unified approach.
Is there only one type of therapy?
Short answer: NO. There is more than one type of therapy.
Long answer: When I went to therapy, I can’t say I knew exactly what I was doing or what was going on. I just knew that some things felt bad and I wanted to know more about them. What followed were years and years of self-taught. I’ve talked to psychologists, read things online, and watched videos about various therapy techniques. But all of that learning has broken the myth that there is only one type of therapy, and that you must use that therapy to work for you. I never had a therapist break down my options because I didn’t even know I had options. Did you know that there are more than fifty different therapeutic approaches? I definitely didn’t! When I learned that I had options, I started talking more about what I wanted.
I am very pleased to see more and more people realizing that it is okay to seek help through therapy, but I think there is some danger in doing so. Telling someone to go to therapy seems like waving a magic wand these days – simply by the time you go, your problem or problem is already on the way to disappearing. I’ve been in therapy (on and off) for nearly ten years and while I have better management of my symptoms, I still deal with some of the same things I walked into this room with when I was 17. This shouldn’t sound depressing, but rather encouraging. Learning that I can shape my therapy experience exactly how I want it has empowered me, and it has helped me realize what I need from therapy, which has helped me function as well as possible.
I’ve had many other misconceptions about therapy, but I’ll admit that this is the biggest and most important. What was your biggest misunderstanding about therapy? Let me know in the comments!