As a licensed therapist (the word counselor will be used interchangeably during this article), if I had a dollar for every time someone came into my office and told me that one of the many reasons why it took them so long to come to therapy was because they didn’t want to be labeled as being “crazy”, I would be rich. You may be surprised to learn that some of the most mentally healthy people are those who decide to come to therapy. To take it a step further, many people who avoid coming to therapy or talk negatively about therapy may have had a negative experience that may have affected the outcome of therapy for them. To give you an example of what I mean is, for some they may have tried therapy before and because they did not connect with the “right” therapist for them, they may have gotten discouraged and stopped coming all together. Others may have certain biases towards therapy because of cultural reasons or other social stigmas. While additionally, others may not fully be informed on what the whole “therapeutic process” entails and make up their own assumptions about what they think therapy is like. Below are some legitimate concerns that people may have when it comes to therapy:
DOES A THERAPIST JUST WANT TO TELL ME WHAT TO DO? This is actually the complete opposite of what counseling is all about. Instead a good counselor is someone who can confidentially give you an unbiased opinion and a different perspective on how to make healthier life decisions and choices.
WHY SEE A THERAPIST, IF I CAN JUST TALK TO A FRIEND OR A FAMILY MEMBER ABOUT WHAT IS GOING ON IN MY LIFE? Understanding the role of a therapist is important. Keep in mind that although a therapist empathetically and genuinely cares about their clients well-being, they do not have that emotional attachment involved when it comes to guiding the client through the decision making process. Additionally, a good therapist will always use a nonjudgmental approach, and do everything they can to make the client feel as comfortable as possible. This is one of the many reasons why talking to a counselor will be a completely different experience from talking to a friend or family member. Also, counselors are bound by both ethical and legal standards to keep things that are talked about during therapy confidential. Some exceptions to this would be if you are in danger of harming yourself or someone else, or if there is elder or child abuse involved.
HOW LONG SHOULD I BE IN THERAPY FOR? The length of time that someone is in therapy for is completely different for everyone. Everyone comes to therapy with different goals in mind and things that they would like to work on. Some people are able to come to therapy for brief periods of time, while others stay in therapy for years. Instead of focusing on how long you need to be in therapy for, take your time to explore any and all issues that you would like to address and together you and your counselor will figure out what the next best step should be.
WHAT IF I DON’T LIKE MY THERAPIST OR CAN’T FIND THE RIGHT ONE? Sometimes people find it nerve racking because they are unsure about whether or not they are going to find the “right” therapist to fit their needs or if they are even going to be comfortable. The truth is that it can sometimes be a little challenging to find the right therapist. But do not worry or give up on your search because there is the right therapist out there for YOU. Some key things to look for are the therapist’s credentials and their experience. This can help give you some background information on them and if they have a specialization in a specific area. When in doubt always base your decision on what feels “right” for you; after all you are your own best expert.