The moment I decided to study psychotherapy was the one I recognized the crucial importance of knowledge. I understood several years ago, that knowledge was one way I could open the door towards understanding myself and those around me, of becoming more resilient with whatever life would bring me. The hours of psychotherapy I had to undertake as a student contributed even more to the person I am today.
Now I use my knowledge, my life, and professional experience to accompany people in the process of understanding themselves and of bringing positive change to their lives. My authenticity as a psychotherapist originates in my deepest belief that therapy helps. Even though psychotherapy is widely recognized as an effective method with significant contributions to mental well-being, there are still some common myths about it. In my experience, I’ve witnessed too often that staying away from solving your problems will not make them disappear. I also observed that not understanding what is going on with yourself, not looking inside your anxieties and fears, not having the courage to explore your needs and beliefs, will too keep you on the spot from becoming the person you want to be.
In the following lines, I’d like to address some of those myths about psychotherapy, while raising awareness about its benefits, as I’ve experienced both as a patient and as a psychotherapist.
"I can work on my problems myself"
This is true up to some point if you are a self-reflecting person. Books and articles can also help better-recognizing aspects of yourself but they don't offer any feedback. Talking to a trustful friend or family member is very important when you are having a hard time and contributes greatly to your wellbeing.
What a therapist does is more than talking and listening. With many years of training and experience, therapists are experts in understanding and treating complex problems.
An experienced therapist can recognise behavior and thought patterns objectively, can guide you to either solve or better tolerate your problem in an empathetic and safe atmosphere, can offer you the space and confidentiality for talking about issues you cannot reveal to anyone else.
"Going to therapy is a sign of weakness"
Some people visiting my practice believe that if relatives or friends knew that they are seeing a psychotherapist, they would think he or she is crazy. That's why they postpone asking for help until the distress is too big.
I would say the opposite: admiting you have a problem is more a sign of strenght rather than weakness.
The reality is that psychotherapy is for anyone wishing to address problems that are not necessarily related to insanity. Most people seek help:
- to cope with anxiety or depression,
- to improve relationships with other people (family members, colleagues, bosses),
- to overcome difficult life transitions such as divorce, loss of someone close, challenges of parenthood,
- to give up unhealthy behaviors (overeating, drinking, smoking, gaming) and find new healthy ways of dealing with stress
- to take a life-changing decision,
- to know themselves better, to achieve balance in their lives.
So, if you were to ask for help or to suffer in silence because of what others might think about you, what would you choose? If you choose the latter, this is already a sign that you put your needs in second place.
"I've heard that therapies don't work or I tried once and I couldn't see a positive change"
Although the effectiveness of psychotherapy is based on research, the person delivering it may not be the best fit for you or may not have the experience for the issues you’re struggling with. Especially in therapy, finding the right person for you is very important and it contributes greatly to the success of the entire process.
My view is that therapy is a collaborative approach where I bring my knowledge, dedication, and empathy and you bring your motivation, openness, and readiness for change. It is a dynamic exchange where your feedback is important to decide if we are in the right direction for you. It is a matter of pacing and timing, but also of changing.
As the Japanese saying : "to know and not to act is not to know" suggests that the ultimate goal of psychotherapy is to set you on the path of change and to help you stay there. Being aware of your problems alone, will not change them.
"Psychotherapy is expensive"
This is true, especially if you see a therapist in his/her private praxis. In Austria part of the costs are reimbursed by the national insurance company, however, the price can still be unaffordable for some. Although for the German-speaking population several institutions offer psychotherapy free of charge or for a small amount of money, the migrant population often has difficulties in finding services in their native language.
The reason why it is so expensive is that psychotherapy is not a profession one can perform full time. Outside the sessions a therapist invests time and money for preparing, attending workshops and supervision groups which in time is adding more value to each session.
"Psychotherapy takes a lot of time"
Everyone moves at a different pace during psyhcotherapy- it's a very individualised process. Dealing with a current issue doesn't always mean you have to go back and explore your entire childhood. Very often short-term psychotherapy (up to 8 sessions) can be enough.
For the majority, studies showed that after six months symptoms improved. Exploring difficult life events, understanding information from your family background are useful for understanding patterns of thinking and coping strategies that might work against you.
During the short term, solution focused therapy, I usually choose to focus mainly on the current problem or crisis that brought you into treatment and not delve into your past. This involves learning how to incorporate techniques and use tools that will help change your current thoughts or behaviours contributing to your problem.
In the end I'd like to highlight that taking care of your mental health is a sign of resourcefulness. Researchers continue to find new links emphasizing the value of taking care of mental health to ensure good physical health, often called the mind-body health connection. This is why getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising your body will enhance your mental health. Increasing your self-awareness, your social awareness, and learning to control your mental states will benefit your body. Understanding this principle will help anyone improve their wellbeing.
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