There are many misconceptions when it comes to therapy. And most of them revolve around a certain type of therapy as well, ignoring all the other options that are available to help you with your mental health. So, let’s look at the most common therapy myths and see what they’re all about.
Before I was a psychotherapist, I knew many people who went to therapy. When they told me what they went through, I used to wonder why on earth they continued.
They went through hours of talking about their problems to end up feeling drained and still without an answer. Just to do it all again a week later. It sounded like hell to me. How on earth was this helping them?
Even worse, we see this idea of therapy repeatedly in the media, films, and books.
However, it was working for some people. With some of my friends, I could see change occurring, albeit slowly, and they were feeling better. But not all of them. So apparently, one size doesn’t fit all.
I knew there had to be other ways. And when I found solution-focused work, not only did it fit my personality to a T, but it seemed to answer all my questions and blow all those myths out of the park.
So in this post, I’m going to go over those common myths and explain why solution-focused work could be the right fit for you, too.
Who knows? You may have assumed some of these therapy myths yourself and been put off therapy because of it! Well, I’m here to bust those myths and offer you an alternative.
1. It takes a long time
In solution-focused work, you begin to see results quite quickly, within a matter of a few weeks. That’s why Solution-Focused Therapy is also known as ‘brief’ therapy.
Saying that, it does take time. That’s why I do not offer one-off sessions so you can ‘see what it’s like’. A course of sessions is recommended and so I have created a 10-week therapy programme that I adapt to your needs as we progress through it.
These changes can be small, to begin with, but they do pick up momentum as the weeks progress. I‘ve even had a few (rare) clients who have created big changes in the first one or two sessions.
And I can tell you the reason why that’s happened – it’s because they’ve done plenty of homework on solution-focused work by reading my blog, and book, and bingeing my podcast. They also believed some of the myths you read here and had been looking for an alternative. As soon as they realised there was one, they knew they’d found the right therapy, and therapist, for them!
I offer as many sessions as you need in my 10-week programme because I am so confident about the changes you will start to feel. It’s not the number of sessions, or the time it takes that is important. It’s about reaching your goal and enjoying that feeling.
At the end of my programme, with an empty stress bucket, you should be able to maintain your own sense of wellbeing independently of my help. (I feel like I take your training wheels off and let you go.)
So no, you don’t need to stay with me for years, plugging more and more money into sessions.
I have a bit of a goodbye phrase at the end of my sessions and it goes like this:
“I want you to go away and get on with your life and forget you ever had to come and see me. Because that problem you had, is not a problem anymore.”
2. You need to know the root cause
You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to.
Chances are you already know the cause – we all have a past, but we can’t change it. We can only move forward. Examining the cause’ further with me won’t make any difference – you want to feel better not worse, right?
And often people will say that they don’t even know what they are anxious about.
A gradual build-up of stress over time is what causes this.
If you really want to know the root cause I can tell you now – it’s fear.
Fear of abandonment, fear of failure, fear of loneliness… the list goes on.
When you’re scared of something, the fight-flight-freeze response kicks in and that is what causes mental distress.
So stop looking for the root of the problem and look for solutions instead.
Find out more about the pros and cons of looking into the past.
3. You have to feel worse before you can feel better
When it comes to therapy myths, this one is quite persistent. I know some people who have been working with a therapist with initially some good results but were now beginning to feel worse again.
In fact, one person told me that they were feeling the worst they ever had. They had been told that it was crucial at this point to NOT stop therapy because they were just getting to the crux of the issues!
(Insert an image of me screaming into the void right here!)
I have no idea how this is helping.
The definition of therapy is to make you feel better.
In no other medical field do I hear this, that it’s going to hurt more. Even if it will, you’ll be given painkillers.
You need solutions – not more problems.
4. You have to ‘dig deep’
What does this even mean?
You’ve been wallowing in your problem and issue for so long why would I let you go any deeper?
My job as a therapist is to get you out of that dark hole you feel you’re in and show you the light.
In solution-focused work, there are no trick questions, no deep analysis, and no trying to find your own way.
I am there with you, tapping you on the shoulder and showing you the way till you pick up the confidence to start leading me.
All the while feeling better and better.
Oh, and there’s some relaxation in every session. So actually, there are times I want you to do nothing at all and I will do the work for you – how does that sound?
5. You need to ‘decompress’
Another one of the many therapy myths I don’t understand because there is no need for it in solution-focused work.
I believe you should feel better at the end of your session, not worse.
There’s nothing to ‘analyse’ or ‘reflect’ on afterwards.
Your session should be part of your normal day, a lot of my clients fit it into their lunch hour, or that quiet time just before they need to pick up the kids from school. You need to be able to continue with your day but with an emptier stress bucket and more energy.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want you to forget about the work we just did. So I do ask you to consider the content of our sessions and see how you can apply it to your week. But you’ve got to get on with your week to do that.
As the feelings of motivation and confidence begin to emerge, you’ll start putting things into place and begin to take control of your life once again.
6. There’s lots of homework
The only homework I give you is to fall asleep to the relaxation recording I give you every single night (and again if you wake up during the night). No really, that is it.
That is the minimum you need to do and my clients that make the quickest differences are the ones that take this on board and do it.
Most people though do a little extra by keeping a note of their good things – so that when I ask you about what’s been good about your week you don’t feel put ‘on the spot’.
But that’s it for most of my clients; fall asleep to the recording and keep a note of your good things – I’ll do all the other work for you in our sessions.
Naturally, some people do some extra work – they like to make notes or do some other background reading and I love this, it only enhances your therapy journey. But if it feels overwhelming, there is no need. It’s just another one of these therapy myths.
I want you to get on with living your life, I don’t need to add to your stress bucket by giving you more tasks to do.
7. It will change your personality
Many people dread the idea of therapy because they think it will challenge their core beliefs and values, even changing their personality.
This, like all the other therapy myths I’ve listed here, is a complete misconception. If anything, it’s the opposite. In therapy, you get to know and like who you really are.
Your behaviours are not set by your personality. And particularly not when you are overly anxious or stressed. They are just survival behaviours coming out in a way that you know is not who you truly are.
If anything needs to change then that will happen naturally and easily as you become more attuned to your real self.
By emptying your stress bucket, you gain so much self-awareness that you then begin to feel more authentic and genuine in all that you do.
8. You need to take time off to do it
I hate when people say that they don’t have the time for therapy or that they will get back to me when some busy period in their life is over and they’ve got some time off.
First of all, it’s one hour per week so it’s not a lot of actual time commitment.
Secondly, if you don’t make time for this now when will you? Or would you rather make time for worse things to come? Please don’t delay getting the help you need.
A therapy programme should be part of your life, part of your care routine, like going to the gym.
Maybe we don’t just need to bust therapy myths but also need to end the stigma of therapy before that happens.
So this blog turned into something much longer than I had initially anticipated. But I have so much to say on this topic!
Mainly because I see people delaying getting the help they need because of some misconception. And I just want to scream at the top of my voice – NO, IT’S NOT LIKE THAT!
Honestly, there are so many therapy myths around that they are stopping people from getting the help they need.
Stop listening to your best friend’s cousin’s daughter’s fiancé about the terrible therapy journey they had, all the work they had to do to dig deep to get to the root cause and cry after every session for 3 years before they felt better. And listen to a therapist instead.
Get the right info and don’t delay your therapy journey.
Because you might even enjoy it and wonder why you never did it sooner.
I am Gin Lalli, a solution-focused therapist, speaker and author.