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Breaking the Silence: 3 Myths About Psychotherapy That Hold You Back

By August 11, 2023August 15th, 2023Trauma Recovery

In a world where self-care and mental health awareness is gaining the spotlight, seeking support through coaching, counselling, or psychotherapy has become much more available and socially accepted.  The tide is shifting, and it’s heartening to witness how these avenues for healing and personal growth are bringing about positive changes that ripple across personal lives, families, and communities.

Yet, amidst this positive transformation, the weight of lingering stigma and years of misconceptions about therapy still casts a shadow.

I can witness this every day in my therapy room (or Zoom therapy room:). Some clients come to me excited to make the change they want to make. Some are a bit anxious or sceptical but still hopeful. But there are also those who come for the first session, sit in front of me and say in a low voice: “I never thought it would come to this”.  It feels to them that being in that situation means they have failed; that they have let themselves or their family, or friends down.  Luckily they do sit in front of me so we can talk about why they feel that way, but it always brings to mind all the others who did not pick up the phone or sent an email because this sense of failure was too heavy to bear.

I have been a psychotherapist for over a decade, and it breaks my heart to see how persistent myths and misconceptions surrounding psychotherapy prevent people from seeking the help they truly need, trapping them in unnecessary suffering and limiting their growth. 

In this post, I want to shed some light on three common myths about psychotherapy, sharing with you real-life examples and client stories to illustrate the potential it offers and the price we pay for buying into old stereotypes.  I hope to inspire you to see therapy for what it is nowadays so that you feel confident and at ease to take the journey toward healing and self-discovery.

Myth 1: “Therapy is for the Weak, Who Cannot Manage on Their Own”

This myth stems from outdated stereotypes and stigma surrounding mental health, but it also taps into more common misconceptions about reaching out for help in general.

Our culture seems to be all about independence, self-reliance, self – sufficiency. Just take a moment to check in with yourself – how easy is it for you to ask for help? And, if like for most of us, the answer is ‘not so easy’, ask yourself why. 

We often hold the belief that we should be capable of handling every challenge on our own, regardless of its complexity. We’ve learnt to perceive seeking support as a sign of weakness or even inadequacy. We have been conditioned to believe we have to always cope well, move forward, and be happy attractive and successful. And if, for a period of time, we are not – well, there must be something wrong with us then.  

However, the reality is quite different. We are interconnected beings, interwoven through the fabric of life, and our ability to survive and thrive is unavoidably tied to our capacity to connect and cooperate. 

Contrary to the traditional “fight or flight” response associated with danger, emerging research, such as that proposed by renowned neuroscientist Dr. Stephen Porges, shows that our first instinctual reaction to threats is to reach out to fellow humans. 

In this context, seeking help is fundamentally an act of resourcefulness that enables us to move through life with collaboration and care, and with much bigger chances not only for surviving but for thriving. 

Seeking Psychotherapy Is A Sign Of Resourcefulness

It’s no different with therapy. Seeking therapy is an act of strength and courage, showcasing a willingness to work toward personal growth. It is a testament to your commitment to resolving problems, dealing with challenges, and living life in the best way possible.

You deserve support and you have the right to actively seek ways that help you thrive in life. 

It also helps to remember that although it starts with you it never ends there. Your own thriving spreads like ripples into your family, community, and the world in general.

Let’s consider my client Ola, a new mom who sought therapy due to postpartum depression. Ola was very hesitant to tell anyone that she struggled. Everyone expected her to be overcome with joy but she felt overwhelmed, sad and not able to cope. She felt ashamed as if she was a bad mum.  Luckily, she took the brave step to open up and seek help. Through therapy, Ola was able to navigate her feelings of overwhelm and sadness, process them, and stop blaming herself for her depression.  It allowed her to relate to her emotions in a totally different way, reclaim her self-worth and start building up her confidence as a new mum. This transformation allowed her to create a nurturing and loving environment for her baby, and develop a deep bond with her daughter, breaking the cycle of emotional neglect that had affected her own upbringing. What would have happened if she stayed silent? Her depression would affect not only herself but also her baby daughter and their whole family. And the cycle will go on. 

Therapy empowers you to develop coping skills, improve communication, and navigate life’s complexities with greater ease. It’s an investment in one’s well-being and a powerful resource for personal growth and self-discovery. But it is also an investment in the people you love and the generations that will come after you.

Myth 2: Psychotherapy Is Just Talking, I Can Talk to Friends Instead

Another common myth about psychotherapy is that it is all about talking and that a heart-to-heart with friends could do the trick just as well.

While the connection with friends and family is extremely helpful, the conversations we share during psychotherapy sessions have totally different focus and goals.

The foundation of therapy is to provide you with a safe, non-judgmental space, where you’re met with – what psychologist Carl Rogers called-  unconditional positive regard. This respect and safety, together with the therapist’s guidance, allows you to explore yourself from different angles, shedding new light on your thoughts and feelings, and new ways of understanding your challenges and struggles as well as strengths and resources.  

But what happens in sessions is not limited to words only – your body, your emotions and your nervous system play a crucial role in this journey.

We now know that deep-rooted patterns, past traumas and the aftermath of childhood adverse experiences are all imprinted in the body.

You cannot think or (talk) your way out of them.

Psychotherapy gives you effective tools and techniques, to help befriend, unburden and regulate your whole system so that you feel present, grounded and emotionally resilient. And due to the newest advancements in the realm of neuroscience and neuropsychology, it allows you to safely process and release memories connected with past hurts and traumas so that you can finally break free from the invisible prison of the past. 

Jason’s Story 

Jason is a young artist who was experiencing a creative block and feelings of self-doubt about his work. He initially tried to talk to his friends to get support, but it seemed they were not able to get the complexity of his struggles.  Feeling unheard, Jason decided to try therapy to understand what was stopping him from following his passion with ease and joy, 

In our sessions, Jason found a safe space to openly express his doubts and fears about his artistic abilities. We used art therapy techniques, such as visual journaling and creative exercises, to help him connect with his emotions and rediscover his artistic voice. We worked on helping him to reconnect to his body and Jason found that the tensions he was carrying in his body for years were connected to the way his dad treated him as a child. Soon it turned out that his self-doubts, self-sabotage and extremely harsh inner critic had exactly the same root cause. 

Healing the relationship with his dad allowed Jason not only to find more closeness and connection with his family of origin but also to reconnect to his own power and creativity. For the first time, he felt like he was ‘his own person’, with the innate right to be, feel and express himself in his own unique way. 

This breakthrough allowed Jason to delve much deeper into the creative process, discover new sources of inspiration, and feel a renewed sense of freedom and confidence in his work.

While his friends provided valuable support, he needed more than a sounding board or a few pieces of advice. He needed professional, effective tools to help him release the burden of past experiences and change the way he perceived himself. Psychotherapy allowed him to finally stand in his power and own the right to authentic creativity and self-expression. 

Myth 3: Psychotherapy as a Last Resort, Reserved for the Most Dire Circumstances 

Let me tell you about my client Lorna. 

I met her on one of my Clarity Calls. We were chatting about what was going on for her and it caught my attention that she kept repeating one sentence over and over again. 

‘It’s nothing. I just need to wrap my own head around it and figure out what to do’

She would tell me a bit about how lonely and misunderstood she felt in her marriage, her husband being quite distant and very critical, and then in the very next sentence she would say;  ‘But it’s ok, ‘I just need to wrap my own head around it and figure out what to do’

And then she would tell me a bit about how stressed and exhausted she felt taking care of everything and everyone around, her kids in their late teens and her ageing parents, just to finish it off with: ‘It’s all good, I just need to wrap my own head around it and figure out what to do.’

We talked about her work as well.  She felt burnt out, unmotivated, and not getting on with her manager, but again, she would say: ‘But it is ok, I just need to wrap my own head around it and figure out what to do.

Did she have any support? Family,  friends?

Not really, she wouldn’t tell her family that she struggled as she didn’t want to worry them.

She wouldn’t tell her friends, either because they had their own problems and she wouldn’t like to burden them with her own.

Therapy? Counselling? Coaching?  Of course not! She felt her problems were not serious enough to justify the investment of money, time, and energy. She felt she just really needed to wrap her own head around it and figure out what to do. 

I was sure she didn’t even realize that she was repeating this sentence like a mantra. 

So I asked; How long have you been trying to get your head around it and figure out what to do? 

She paused and looked away. For a long moment, we sat in silence. 

When she looked back at me her eyes were filled with tears.

10 years’ she said

Just imagine this. 

Ten long and lonely years of trying to manage everything on her own without asking anyone for support. 

You Do Not Have To Wait 10 Years To Be Happy – Psychotherapy Can Help 

Lorna’s story is a stark reminder of the price we pay for waiting until the eleventh hour to seek help.

When we treat therapy as a desperate necessity, we subject ourselves to prolonged distress and unnecessary suffering.

We wouldn’t wait for a physical ailment to become critical before seeking medical care. But we often allow our struggles to fester, and keep the silence no matter how much pain we feel.

The misconception that psychotherapy is only reserved for crisis situations undermines the proactive nature of self-care and personal growth. Yes, psychotherapy is a life-saver at times of crisis.  But it also offers a space for reflection, self-discovery, and skill-building that can enhance our lives even when things seem relatively stable.

In other words, no problem, no challenge, no intention or goal is too small to get started. Waiting until the last moment to seek therapy denies us the opportunity to develop the resilience and coping mechanisms that can empower us to navigate future challenges with grace.

So many of my clients (yes, even those who initially feel like going for therapy is a failure) after a few weeks of working together say “ Why did I wait for so long? I should have done that many years ago.’ Well…  better late than never. But also, in the case of therapy – better now than later. It’s an investment in a better, happier more fulfilling future for yourself and those you love. 

Psychotherapy is not a  last resort, it is a powerful tool for growth, self-discovery, and lasting transformation that you can use no matter what is going in your life right now.

Debunking Myths and Embracing Potential of Psychotherapy

I hope breaking free from these 3  myths surrounding psychotherapy will be the first step towards unlocking the door to your own healing and growth.

Therapy is not just for those with severe mental health problems; it’s a valuable resource for anyone facing emotional challenges and seeking personal growth.

Seeking therapy is not a sign of weakness; it’s a courageous choice to nurture your emotional well-being and embrace your inner strength.

And while talking to friends can be helpful, therapy offers you a safe space, effective tools and a therapeutic alliance which are all true game-changers. 

If you’ve been hesitating to reach out for help, know that you deserve support and healing.

There is no shame in seeking help,  you don’t have to navigate life’s challenges alone. A skilled therapist can be a compassionate guide on your path to healing and growth. Take that first step today and break the silence. 

Ready to make the first step to unlock your own freedom and power?

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