Misconceptions about Therapy

Continuing the press kit-inspired series...

No, therapists aren't like friends that you pay

Therapists make you work. The work you do depends on the kind of therapist you see. Interpersonal therapists get you to examine your relationship patterns. Are they working for you? Are you sure? Social rhythm therapists make you track your schedule. For people with bipolar, an off kilter schedule results in an off kilter brain. (The chart I use is here.) Cognitive behavioral therapists even give you work sheets! Mostly this homework involves learning to examine your thoughts. Just because your brain tells you something doesn't mean it's true.

No, therapists don't give advice

Not like your mother. Not in the sense of, should I break up with my boyfriend or how do I get my mother off my back. Therapy is all about the tools you need to make these decisions on your own. Your therapist may give you information, or ask you to examine motivation or anticipate consequences. But honey, your life is your own.

No, just because one therapist didn't help doesn't mean the next one won't

Maybe it wasn't a fit. Maybe you weren't ready for what that therapist was doing. There are all kinds of therapy. And what might be helpful to you at one stage might be less helpful at another. Most therapists have a number of techniques up their sleeve. If you have a good relationship with yours, but you don't find what you're doing to be helpful, you can say so. You can say so! Maybe the two of you can steer in another direction. Or maybe it's time to move on. But have the conversation.

Case in point: One way to treat past trauma is to tell the story again to somebody who is safe. Every time you retrieve a memory from your long term memory, it goes into short term memory. There, something new is added, the experience of telling it to the other person. When it returns to long term memory, it is changed. I don't mean the details of the event are changed. But the emotional energy around it is changed. This process is called memory reconsolidation. That technique works slick for me, as long as we are talking about past sorrows. But for real trauma, it was a bust. There is supposed to be some closure at the end of the story-telling. But it never stuck. Every time I repeated a trauma to my therapist, I left the office in a hyper-aroused and re-traumatized state. So, I told my therapist. We decided to stop doing trauma work. Now we focus on the present.

Three takeaways: 1) There are lots of therapies, more than the three mentioned above; 2) Therapy is work; and 3) You can negotiate about what kind of therapy you are going to do.

Actually, the process of negotiating with your therapist is practice for negotiating other parts of your life. That also is how therapy works. It's practice for your life.

book cover from Amazon.com
Wooden file cabinet by Pptudela, used under the GNU Free Documentation License
clip art from clipart-library.com

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