Photo by Stephanie Hau on Unsplash

Like many other unique professions, mental health practitioners have been the subject of countless TV adaptations. While doctors have ER, Grey’s Anatomy, and The Good Doctor, therapists have Huff, In Treatment, Web Therapy, and Couples Therapy. These types of shows are designed to take the most dramatic parts of their chosen world and focus on telling those stories for an audience seeking intrigue.

And what’s the key to TV drama? Most of the time, it’s the signature larger-than-life storylines that fuel watercooler talk for days. For most people seeking mental health support, what’s on TV doesn’t portray the reality of therapy at all. From sensationalized symptoms to questionable professional standards, it’s easy to make assumptions about what therapy is like without having experienced it. Some people may even avoid seeking counselling because of what they see on TV.

There’s no reason to allow the media to colour the reputation of mental health support like this, so let’s bust some therapy myths right here, right now.

Myth #1: My therapist will gossip about me

In order to practice, therapists and counsellors of all kinds must be licensed. This means they’ll have professional designations like RCC (Registered Clinical Counsellor) and CCC (Certified Canadian Counsellor) next to their name. To hold a CCC designation, practitioners must meet certain educational and ethical standards. This includes strict confidentiality rules that prohibit sharing any details about clients or sessions with any third party, outside of emergencies.

Not only will your practitioner never gossip about you with others, but they are also bound by their clinical duties not to. Most mental health professionals have policies that outline their responsibilities and approaches to privacy. Even simple communication like email and appointment bookings are subject to extra layers of security through encryption.

Everything you say in a session is just between you and your therapist.

Myth #2: Therapy is only for extreme cases

Anyone can go to therapy at any time. People reach the decision to seek counselling at different times, and that’s a personal choice that relies on lots of different factors. But no, you don’t have to be in crisis to go to therapy.

One of the wonderful things about finding a therapist who’s right for you is that you have someone to walk with you through all kinds of life stages. Some people check in with their therapist periodically for mental health check-ups, just like they would with their doctor. Others prefer to seek support through periods of transition or challenge that come up.

Therapy is preventative and change-supporting, and not only in response to trauma.

Myth #3: Therapy is expensive

Therapy is certainly an investment, there’s no doubt about it. The average cost of a session is between $100 and $150.

That being said, there is a growing contingent of counsellors who are working to make counselling more financially accessible. This includes implementing sliding scale prices, keeping a certain number of low- or no-cost slots available per month, and other strategies that reduce barriers to care.

Myth #4: If I go to therapy, I’ll uncover things that will make me feel even worse

The “can of worms” myth is strong around going to therapy. The thought of remembering, reliving, or discussing experiences is profoundly scary and puts a person back in their most vulnerable state. It can definitely be hard to “unsee” or “unfeel” the hard emotions that are present in a counselling session.

The role of a counsellor, though, is to offer a safe space to traverse that gamut of emotions at the pace that’s right for their client. Working with a baseline of (self-) compassion and non-judgmental patience is key to finding context for what’s under discussion. This helps to ease the weight of the emotions that are present and offers a pathway through.

Therapy can be hard. It forces you to do things like grieve, challenge your assumptions, and revisit old sources of pain or hardship. Your therapist’s role is to help you tend to your spirit. It’s through that process that therapy shifts away from discomfort and toward peace.

Myth #5: My therapist is a beacon of wisdom and has all the answers

Therapists are people, too. They have complex emotional lives and work through the different tastes of life just like their clients.

When you go to therapy, you’re the driver. You bring the suitcases to unpack and know the stories behind each piece. What your therapist does is facilitate the process. Their training allows them to use different methodologies to guide you through whatever pieces are impacting your life.

Finding the strategies that work best with the situation and shining a light on parts of the story that are worth considering are what therapists are working toward. It’s that expertise that allows you to walk next to each other – you with the map, your therapist with the flashlight.

How does this work?

If I had to wager a guess, you’re here to figure out whether I am a good fit to be your therapist. The fastest way to do that is to schedule a free consultation, and go from there!