Debunking Some of the Most Common Myths of Psychotherapy

Article excerpt

I had a chance the other night to watch one of my all time favorite flicks "Ordinary People." I especially appreciate the character portrayed by actor Judd Hirsch.

As a psychotherapist, Hirsch is caring, empathetic, encouraging and supportive. His character epitomizes to me what psychotherapy is supposed to be all about. And Ive always hoped that his performance dispelled some of the misconceptions and myths about psychotherapy that many people operate with.

"Psychotherapy" is often used as a generic term which includes under its umbrella counseling, psychoanalysis, couple therapy, family therapy, pastoral counseling, and so on. Different approaches and schoolsof-thoughts have chosen different labels, sometimes to describe the exact same thing.

Psychotherapy can be provided by a number of professions: psychologists, social workers, counselors, ministers, or psychiatrists. Simply having a degree in one of these fields, however, does not mean a person is necessarily also able to do psychotherapy. That requires special training and experience which may or may not be included in these areas of study.

With all that in mind, Id like to briefly talk about some of the more common misperceptions about psychotherapy.

1. "Only crazy people need therapy." Ive used therapy twice in my life, both times to deal with particular places where I felt stuck.

Actually, almost all certified therapists are required to go through their own therapy. In general, therapy is for anyone who feels stuck, or who is getting overwhelmed by the problems coming their way.

2. "All therapy involves lying on a couch and free associating." Also not true. Though we have couches in our offices (and may take an occasional nap on them) they are for sitting. And though some therapy does make use of free association, other therapy can be very directed and problem centered.

Often therapy, especially relationship therapy, is like getting some coaching (though "coaching" is not therapy). A coach has the training and skill to stand back and see things a bit more clearly. …