Busting Myths with Seeking Psychological Help
by Shannon Swales, clinical psychologist, 22 May 2023
If what you know about seeing a psychologist comes from TV (e.g., Fraser) or movies (e.g., Good Will Hunting), you may have misguided conceptions about what happens in a practising psychologist’s office. I am here to bust these common myths one by one and give you the reality of what it is like to see a psychologist.
Myth: Only crazy people go to psychotherapy
Reality: What is crazy anyway? People seek help from a psychologist for many reasons ranging from treatment for common mental health conditions (e.g., depression, panic attacks, PTSD) to coping with life difficulties (e.g., parenting stress, loss of a job, divorce, death of a loved one), to addressing problem behaviours (e.g., aggressive behaviour, binge eating, gambling). Almost everyone could benefit from seeing a psychologist to help improve their mental and emotional well-being. It isn’t that something is inherently wrong with you but more of how we were taught to respond to these experiences. Psychologists can help you with the right tools and knowledge.
Myth: Talking to family members or friends or social media mental health support is just as effective as going to a psychologist
Reality: Personal support (as I like to call it) from your family, friends and even pets (don’t laugh, they are excellent sources of support) and from mental health support social media accounts are great and very important when you are struggling. In addition to your personal support and social media network, psychologists can provide specialised education, training and experience in the area you are struggling with. Plus, the bonus of seeing a psychologist is that we are strangers, which often makes it easier to be honest with, without concern that anyone else will find out or that we will unduly burden. If your difficulties have been ongoing without significant improvement, it may be time to seek help from a psychologist.
Myth: You can get better on your own if you try hard enough and keep a positive attitude
Reality: Would you wait weeks, months, or even years to get help for a broken leg? NO, so why try and “fix” your psychological health? Needing help for your psychological health doesn’t mean you have failed; you don’t think you have failed when you’ve broken your leg, right? As I tell some of my clients when growing up, no one told you how to look after your psychological health, but we were taught how to look after your physical health (e.g., see the GP, put a bandaid on a cut). Deciding to see a psychologist shows courage to reach out and admit you need help; it’s a sign of strength rather than weakness—and the first step towards feeling better.
Myth: Psychologists just listen to you vent, so why pay someone to listen to you complain?
Reality: I wish that would be a lot easier. Psychologists often begin by getting a detailed description of what brings you to see them, followed by gaining relevant information on your background, history of the problem, significant areas in your life, and ways you have tried to deal with it. Psychotherapy tends to be a collaborative, interactive process where the client is an active team member in their treatment outcome. Together you and your psychologist will identify problems, set goals and monitor your progress.
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 individualised process, and patience with yourself is needed. Your psychologist’s goal is to help you gain awareness and skills so you can be your therapist. We are aiming for ourselves to be fired as soon as possible.
Myth: Seeing a psychologist is expensive
Reality: For the past 15 years, the Australian government has partially subsidised psychology sessions under the Better Access to Mental Health Scheme. With a valid referral from your GP, you can get a large chunk of your consultation fee rebated under Medicare for up to 10 sessions per calendar year (individual and group). Also, a number of psychologists will offer reduced fees or bulk billing for eligible clients. Go to the following link to find out more http://www.psychology.org.au/medicare/better_access/
So did I bust any myths for you? Well, I hope so, and I hope it helps you or someone you know to make that first step into or back into psychotherapy to get the help you or they deserve and need.
If you found this article helpful, please leave a comment, like or share so that others can benefit as well. Thank you, and take care of yourself.