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What really happens in Therapy

Although there seems to be more of an openness about mental health and emotional well being and the conversation has really opened up, there still seems to be a bit of a stigma around accessing and engaging in therapy.

I don't know about you but there seems to be a sense that you need to keep being in therapy quiet which might make you feel ashamed.

The way therapy is often portrayed in the media doesn’t help either. You see therapists falling in love with clients or behaving in inappropriate and unethical ways. You see clients turning up at all hours of the day and often at the therapist’s home address. You see boundaries being broken and lines crossed.

Whilst these kind of things might add to the dramatic tension, they give therapy a bad reputation and they certainly don’t reflect the reality of what actually happens in therapy.

So let’s have a closer look at the most commonly held beliefs and myths about therapy.

Counselling is only for people with serious issues or those who are mentally ill

Actually Counselling is for everyone and there are many reasons why someone might decide to access therapy, for example they might struggle with a bereavement or losing their job, they might be experiencing burn out or have issues around their self esteem and confidence. They might be struggling to deal with a major life event or change.

Therapy is a form of self care and can be preventative, after all why wouldn’t you want to deal with your issues or problems before they completely get out of hand?

Therapy provides you with a safe space to explore what is going on for you and how you can move forwards. You don’t need to feel ashamed - we all struggle at times and we all need help - it’s part of being human.

Therapists tell you what to do

As a therapist I can tell you that we do not tell you what to do or how to live your life and we do not give you advice. That is definitely not the purpose of therapy.

Counselling is about helping you to find your own answers and to hear your own voice which will enable you to make the changes that are right for you.

Sometimes this might mean helping you to come to terms with an experience or it might mean helping you to build your confidence and self esteem. As therapists we facilitate a process of personal growth and self discovery.

Accessing therapy is a sign of weakness

Asking for help is actually the opposite, it’s a sign of strength and bravery. It takes courage to be honest with yourself and to admit that you are struggling.

Therapy is all about my childhood

That will depend on the type of therapy you choose to engage in. Of course therapy can involve looking at your past experiences because they might impact on how you are coping with things in the present and they can have an impact on who you are as a person, but therapy is a collaborative process which means that you do have a voice and a say in what you want to focus on in your therapy.

Your therapist will not force you to explore or talk about anything that you do not wish to talk about or that makes you feel uncomfortable.

Counselling didn’t work for me in the past and it won’t work for me now

You might have had a bad experience of therapy or with a particular therapist. And that’s okay. We don’t like or click with everyone we meet in our lives.

Ideally you should be able to  choose your therapist. So have a look at a few profiles and get in touch with a few Counsellors to find a therapist that you like and feel comfortable with. This is really important because the relationship between you and the Counsellor is what will make the therapy work.

Having said that not every approach works for everyone, so for example some people prefer a more structured approach whereas others are more comfortable with less structure. Have a think about what you would like to get out of your therapy and trust your instincts.

I will be judged

One of the main purposes of Counselling is to provide you with a safe and non judgmental space in which you feel able to talk freely and express your feelings. I want to reassure you that you will not be judged.

Therapy goes on forever and costs a fortune

A Counsellor will always discuss the number of sessions with you and you and your Counsellor will review your therapy on a regular basis to make sure you are still getting the most out of it.

The aim of any therapy is to help you to feel better. Remember you do have a say and you are in the driving seat. You and your Counsellor will most likely work towards an ending but you can also choose to end therapy at any time.

In terms of the financial cost, therapy is an investment in yourself and your well being. There is also free therapy available through the NHS and the charity sector.

I hope that busting some of these myths has helped you to feel less stigma about accessing therapy. Remember you are not alone - life is difficult and we all struggle at times.

There is absolutely no shame in asking for help!

armchair with cushion


BACP (2023). Therapy myths debunked: the truth behind the UK’s 8 most common therapy misconceptions, , accessed on 26.02.2024


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