Myths vs Reality
Myth: Only crazy people go to psychotherapy.
Reality: Untrue. People seek psychotherapy for a range of reasons in everyday life or life concerns. Some pursue psychotherapy for treatment of depression, anxiety or substance abuse. But others want help coping with major life transitions or changing problem behaviors: the loss of a job, a divorce or the death of a loved one. Yet others need help managing and balancing the demands of parenting, work and family responsibilities, coping with medical illness, improving relationship skills or managing other stressors that can affect just about all of us.
Anyone can benefit from psychotherapy to become a better problem solver. Stigma connected to getting help for psychological or behavioral concerns used to be a strong deterrent for people. But getting help is now seen as a sign of resourcefulness.
Myth: Talking to family members or friends is just as effective as going to a MFT.
Reality: Support from family and friends you can trust is important when you're having a hard time. However, MFTs recognizes behaviors or thought patterns objectively, more so than those closest to you who may have stopped noticing — or maybe never noticed. The therapeutic relationship is grounded in confidentiality. (There are a few exceptions where a MFT has a duty to inform others, such as if you threaten to harm yourself or someone else. But that’s something your MFT will clarify with you.) In fact, people often tell their MFT things they have never before revealed to anyone else. If your difficulties have been ongoing without any significant improvement, it may be time to seek help from a trained MFT.
Myth: You can get better on your own if you just try hard enough and keep a positive attitude.
Reality: Many people have tried to solve their problems on their own for weeks, months or even years before starting psychotherapy but have found that that it’s not enough. Deciding to start psychotherapy doesn't mean you’ve failed, just like it doesn't mean you’ve failed if you can't repair your own car. There may be a biological component to some disorders, such as depression or panic attacks, which make it incredibly difficult to heal yourself. In reality, having the courage to reach out and admit you need help is a sign of strength rather than weakness — and the first step toward feeling better.
Myth: MFTs just listen to you vent, so why pay someone to listen to you complain?
Reality: A MFT will often begin the process of psychotherapy by asking you to describe the problem that has brought you into his or her office. But that's just psychotherapy's starting point. They will also gather relevant information on your background, as well as the history of your problems and other major areas of your life, and the ways you have tried to address the concerns. Psychotherapy is typically an interactive, collaborative process based on dialogue and the client's active engagement in joint problem-solving. Your MFT may give you homework assignments so that you can practice new skills between sessions or reading assignments so that you can learn more about a particular topic. Together you and your MFT will identify problems, set goals and monitor your progress.
Myth: A MFT will just blame all your problems on your parents or your childhood experiences.
Reality: One component of psychotherapy might entail exploring childhood experiences and significant events impacting your life. Relating information from your family background can help you and your MFT understand your perceptions and feelings, current coping strategies, or see patterns that developed. The point of wanting you to look backward is to better understand your present and make positive changes for the future. However, in some instances your MFT will choose to focus mainly on the current problem or crisis that brought you into treatment and not delve into your past at all. You’ll learn how to incorporate techniques and use tools that will help change your current thoughts or behaviors contributing to your problem. MFT who use an eclectic style of psychotherapy will know how to guide the session to include discoveries about your past with reflections on current problematic thoughts or behaviors.
Myth: You’ll need to stay in psychotherapy for many years or even the rest of your life.
Reality: Everyone moves at a different pace during psychotherapy — it’s a very individualized process. In one study for example, half of clients in psychotherapy improved after just eight sessions while 75 percent had improved by the six-month point. It’s something you and your MFT can talk about in the initial meetings when developing a treatment plan. Your MFT's goal is not to keep you on as a client forever but to empower you to function better on your own.