Many people have a perception of talk therapy that doesn't quite match up to reality. If you think therapy means lying on a couch with a box of tissues and paying top dollar to talk to someone who doesn't quite get it, or that it's only for people who are mentally ill, think again.
It turns out that most people could benefit from therapy -- but it takes work on your part, a therapist who meets your needs and really does understand you, and as much time as it takes -- at your convenience and within your budget -- to make a difference.
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An expert psychologist and a psychiatrist explain the top 7 misunderstandings that people have about therapy -- with a dose of reality tossed in.
My childhood doesn’t matter.
Most people start therapy because they have an issue in their adult life that they want to talk about with a professional. Whether it’s job trouble, relationship turmoil, or struggles with children, it’s not today that needs fixing -- it’s the way you relate to your past.
“Your relationship with your parents and your childhood are immensely significant on your life today,” says Jenn Berman, PhD, a marriage, family, and child therapist in private practice in Beverly Hills, Calif. “Most people think that in order to have been affected by their childhood they needed to be abused in some way. But it’s never that black and white. ”
Sometimes, it’s the seemingly simple act of being misunderstood by your parents as a child that can have a tremendous impact on your adult life. And it's just not some people who need to dig up the past -- it’s everyone.
“One hundred percent of people who seek help in therapy have issues that relate to their childhood,” says Carole Leiberman, MD, a Beverly Hills, Calif., psychiatrist. “Certain expectations and behavior you have in your adult life come from childhood, and could cause a person to have to trouble today.”
All therapists are the same.
Not even close, Berman says. There are different types of therapists and different types of therapy -- such as cognitive therapy, which engages a patient to identify, challenge, and then change behavior that causes issues in his life; and psychoanalytic therapy, which deals more with how the subconscious influences behavior.
“Don’t think that whoever you meet with first will be the right fit for you,” says Berman, who hosts the Love and Sex Show with Dr. Jenn on Sirius/XM radio. “Shop around for the right person.”
Her advice is to talk to a half-dozen different therapists as a good benchmark and then pick the expert that best meets your needs.
Look for someone who is a licensed therapist, with expertise in the area in which you are seeking help -- whether it's marriage counseling, traumatic stress, or eating disorders, for instance -- and someone with whom you just have good chemistry and have a sense of comfort.