Therapy Mythbusters

I recently came across this infographic while on Pinterest. I thought it was a very well done review of the common "myths about therapy". I'd like to take a moment to comment on some of them.

"It's too expensive." As I say in the clinical forms section of this website, therapy is an investment in yourself. When I see clients, most use their insurance benefits to pay for some or the majority (if not all) of their therapy. I accept many insurance plans (Blue Shield, Cigna, TriCare/TriWest, and CalOptima) and folks that come to see me that have a different insurance can usually get reimbursement from their insurance companies for at least a portion of my fee. Therapy is an investment in yourself and when you pay for therapy, you're not just paying for my time but also my education, experience, and expertise. Given that, I think therapy cash-rates are quite fair and not "too expensive".

"It's never-ending." Well, I can only speak for myself, but if I'm working with a client for years and years and we're still working on the same issue after all that time, I'm probably not doing my job. I need to refer that client to another therapist because what I'm doing is probably not working very well if we're not seeing some improvement after such a long time. Truth be told, some clients I have seen for years but typically the majority of my clients are fairly short-term because I don't want my clients to be dependent on me. I want them to know how to help themselves. I try to quickly identify the problems, give some behavioral interventions that can provide quick symptom reduction and then work on long-standing issues with cognitive interventions to do restructuring. That sounds like a bunch of psychobabble and it is--here's what I'm saying in layman's terms: I teach skills to help you in the short-term to get quick relief, and teach more skills to help you in the long-term for lasting relief. Those clients that I've seen for several years are the ones that have multiple stressors that are on-going and different people require different levels of support in coping with stressors and in learning to use skills effectively. 

"Therapists are all the same." One of the first things I tell my clients: "I'm not like most therapists you may have met." I return phone calls promptly, I have a more realistic cancellation policy and I don't view myself as this know-it-all that's so much better than you. I want my clients to see me as a person that isn't much different than they are. I want them to know that the skills I'm teaching them are the very same ones that I use to help myself. 

"It's for 'crazy' people." The majority of the clients I see are most definitely not "crazy". The majority of my clients are actually quite high functioning folks that are just going through a rough patch. These people are sometimes referred to as "the walking wounded." I do have some clients that are not functioning well over all, but even folks with a "diagnosable" problem are not "crazy." The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-V) is the book that seeks to describe and define mental difficulties that people may experience. I dislike "diagnosing" people because I find it is rather limiting  and frequently does not adequately describe a person's experience and, more importantly, how I can help them. I have to diagnose for insurance purposes of course, but even with a "diagnosis", the symptoms (or "criteria" in DSM terms) are what I try to work with and find help for.

"It's a sign of weakness." As I said above, most of my clients are quite high functioning. They have families, work, support themselves and others, etc. There is, I hope, a lessening of the stigma of seeing a therapist. Maybe just because I live in LA and here "everyone" has a therapist, I don't perceive the stigma that undoubtedly still remains in some areas of the state. The people that seek therapy are typically aware that something is "not right" or "not as good as it could be" or just "different than it used to be". I would say this awareness is an internal strength and is quite the opposite of a "weakness." 

"It will make you feel worse." It is important to find a therapist that doesn't take you where you're not ready to go. I might see what "needs" to be done in a situation but I have to weigh this against where the client is. Typically, the treatment interventions I prescribe are ones that build a client's resources so that they're able, when they're ready, to delve into painful issues. By then, though, they are also aware that they're able to do it without feeling overwhelmed and "worse."

"It requires medication." Many, many problems that people face (anxiety, depression, grief, adjustment issues, sleep issues, behavioral problems, etc.) do not require medication. There are a lot of behavioral interventions that I want to try FIRST (or at least in combination with medication). There are some cases, of course, for which medication can help and should be considered but even then, I believe that it is in the best interest of the client to do things in addition to medication to help themselves function better so that at some point, if it is appropriate, perhaps they won't need the medication any longer. Of course for all medication-related issues I refer my clients to a psychiatrist to make the determination of what, if any, medication is most appropriate and for how long might a person need to take a given medication. This is outside of my scope of expertise. Even if a psychiatrist thinks a client could benefit from medication, it is entirely up to the client to decide to fill the prescription and take the medication. I look at referrals to psychiatrists as a way to get a "second opinion" about their given situation. Most psychiatrists agree that if medication is appropriate for a client, medication PLUS psychotherapy provides a far better outcome than medication alone.

I hope in reviewing this helpful infographic and my comments, you will be able to debunk these commonly held misconceptions and myths about therapy. Do you have other questions about therapy? Let me know in the comments below or by contacting me directly via e-mail!