For those who have never sought psychological help, the work of psychologists and psychotherapists can seem mysterious and intimidating. Three experts decided to refute some of the most persistent and common myths.
Colorado-based clinical psychologist Stephanie Smith, clinical psychologist, professor at the Fuller School of Psychology Ryan Howes, and Assistant Executive Director of Research for the American Psychological Association Lynn Bafka tell us about what we would like to know about psychotherapy.
1. The therapist is not the one who gives advice
Do not expect to hear from him that you need to divorce or quit your job, and similar recommendations. “In fact, our job is to help people get to know themselves better and start thinking differently, behaving differently, and looking at the world differently,” says Stephanie Smith. “It’s not about giving advice.”
Of course, a therapist can tell you about strategies to help you cope with problems such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. But when it comes to decisions that shape your life, he acts more like an assistant. “Do you really go to a psychotherapist in order to give him power over yourself? Or do you want to manage your life yourself? ” Ryan Howes asks.
2. They visit psychotherapists themselves
“I would never trust a psychotherapist who has not received psychotherapy,” Howes says. Most psychotherapists go through their psychotherapy, maybe not constantly, but from time to time, at one stage or another in their careers.
3. Psychotherapists work not only with mental disorders
“This is one of the most common misconceptions that psychotherapists’ clients are only people with mental disorders,” explains Howes. – Clients come to us with a variety of problems that are by no means related to any diagnosis. However, if the disorder is diagnosed, you have nothing to be ashamed of, just as you do not hesitate to tell your doctor about any other health problems. ”
When a person experiences an internal struggle, but is not yet exhausted by it, he usually does not see the point in contacting a psychotherapist. “In fact, if you feel that you are bogged down in problems and cannot cope with them, if you are depressed, it is better to consult a specialist,” says Lynn Bafka.
4. The psychotherapist will not tell your secrets to third parties
“Privacy is rule number one,” says Ryan Howes. “I will quickly lose my license if I start discussing my clients with friends or family.” However, psychotherapists can discuss some cases with a narrow circle of trusted colleagues.
“We have these meetings regularly, some once a week, some once a month,” says Smith. – We tell about difficult cases, listen to the opinion of colleagues. But we do not provide any information to identify the client. ”
5. Psychotherapists do not search the web for information about you
“It would violate boundaries and the principle of confidentiality,” explains Smith. They work with the information that you present to them, and will not ask how you explain “that picture” on the social network that you posted the other day.
“I will never google for information about a client, my principle is that the therapy process is limited by the space of my office,” confirms Howes.
6. When meeting, the therapist does not “recognize” you if you do not greet him first
You are on a date at a restaurant, and suddenly your therapist is at the next table. You don’t have to be afraid that he will come up and say: “Good evening! Glad to see you’re okay! ” “The therapist should not show that he knows you if you do not take the first step yourself. But even in this case, he will not reveal to others that you are going to him for therapy, if you do not tell about it yourself, ”explains Lynn Bafka.
7. The main thing for the success of therapy is to find “your” psychotherapist
“The most famous, most respected therapist in the world will not help you, or will help you little, if you do not match with him,” says Smith. – Compatibility is one of the main success factors. Studies show that it is even more important than the method of therapy, the qualifications of the therapist, the duration of therapy, and so on.
How do you know that you have found “your” therapist? “In this case, you will feel that you are heard, understood, respected, accepted and you are safe. Although the psychotherapy process itself can be difficult, ”explains Lynn Bafka.
8. The mere presence of the client is not enough – he needs to actively participate in the therapy process
Sometimes, when going to a therapist, clients think that all that is required of them is to attend sessions. Something like how they come to the doctor with complaints of a severe runny nose and leave with a prescription for an antibiotic.
“If a person comes to us with a ‘fix my problems’ attitude, they will be very disappointed,” Howes says. Psychotherapy is impossible without the cooperation of the client and the therapist; passive expectation of the result will not give anything.
9. They are not omniscient
“People often assume that psychotherapists have the ability to read the client’s soul. But it’s not, ”warns Lynn Bafka. – We received a special education, we have a certain understanding of human nature, behavior, emotions, and with the help of this knowledge we can analyze the situation in which our client finds himself. We cannot magically look into his soul, understanding is a process. ”
10. It’s hard work
Receiving several clients a day, helping them cope with difficult experiences and trauma – all this requires a lot of mental investment. “Yes, when you hour after hour, day after day delve into human dramas, then sometimes you don’t have enough energy for your own family,” notes Stephanie Smith. “But you can learn to deal with it.”
“We’re professional secret keepers,” Howes says. – Over time, this load begins to press more and more. Therefore, we also need our confidential, with which we can talk frankly. ”
And yet they feel great satisfaction in their work. “I see that psychotherapy is working. Clients get a new way of looking at things, new ways to act. They begin to cope better with life, be it in the sphere of relationships or work, ”says Bafka. “I just love people,” says Stephanie Smith. – I like to understand them deeper, that’s my whole secret. They are infinitely interesting for me. ” “I am delighted to see the internal growth of my clients,” adds Howes.