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10 Common Myths About Therapy

Common Myths About Therapy

In so doing, clinicians listen not just to the content of the story but for deeper themes and patterns that undergird the stories. This allows the professional to mirror feedback based on these emerging themes and patterns that can facilitate change, not just the repetitive words and phrases that clients supply.

Related: Debunking 11 Common Myths Around Mental Health

6. Psychotherapists blame a client’s problem on their upbringing.

Despite the theatric antics of Dr. Phil, a well-trained therapist doesn’t blame or shame. They don’t blame clients or their parents. They bring an objective, bird’s-eye perspective to help clients see the water they’re swimming in and allow them to take responsibility for their lives. Professional therapists never admonish, blame, or shame clients into change.

Myths about therapy
Myths about therapy

7. Psychotherapists can prescribe medication.

This is a common myth. The term “psychotherapist” is a broad umbrella that includes licensed social workers, licensed marriage and family therapists licensed practicing counselors, and licensed psychologists. Although this practice has changed in some states, generally speaking, psychotherapists are trained in the skill of helping clients work through their problems.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who usually limit their practices to prescribing and monitoring psychotropic medications while working with psychotherapists who conduct the therapy itself.

8. Psychotherapy can solve problems in one or two sessions.

While convenient for the novel or television show to have a character “fixed” in a session or two, it doesn’t work that way in real life. The average session is around 50 to 60 minutes and the first session is basically an intake and getting acquainted session. To get to the heart of a problem, psychotherapy takes many more sessions over time.

On the flip side, as in “The Sopranos,” psychotherapy rarely takes six or seven years. Generally speaking, something’s not working when a client works with the same therapist for excessively long periods of time. The average therapy course is three to four months.

Related: 6 Reasons Why Art Therapy Is Beneficial For Kids

9. Psychotherapists believe that personality is cemented by age 5.

The belief that you can’t teach old dogs new tricks is perhaps the biggest myth of all. When you read a novel in which a therapist says that personality is fixed by age 5, it’s laughable and the story loses credibility.

Neuroscientists have shown that the brain is malleable, and MRI technology allows us to see this change. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin, using the latest in MRI brain imaging technology, have shown that meditation naturally and beneficially increases the neural mass (gray matter) of the brain by harnessing the brain’s “neuroplastic” potential.

Some of the latest psychotherapy techniques utilize treatment such as empathy and compassion based on neuroplasticity—the creation of new neural pathways in the brain and thus the potential for new beliefs and behaviors throughout life from womb to tomb.

10. Psychotherapists make clients feel immediately better after each session.

This scenario might be convenient for a storyline, but nothing is further from the truth. Clients are not cars, and therapists aren’t mechanics. Clients are active participants while therapists help them face and uncover whatever is bothering them. That process takes time and can be initially difficult and painful.

Having feelings stirred up is part of the therapeutic process. When psychotherapists describe the healing trajectory, we often say sometimes things get worse before they get better. But skilled therapists are trained on how to lead clients through the storm into the calm.

Related: Aquarium Therapy: 6 Ways Aquariums Help Us Restore Our Mental Health


Finding Help

If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health issue, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Contact Mental Health America at to find resources closest to you or call 1-800-273-8255, a 24-hour crisis center. You can also call 1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs” to 66746 at the SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline. Trained crisis workers will listen to you and direct you to the resources you need. In an emergency, call 911 or contact a local hospital or mental health facility.

Lutz, A., Lewis, J., Johnstone, T., & Davidson R.J. (2008). Regulation of the neural circuitry of emotion by compassion meditation: Effects of meditative expertise. PLOS.

Ruby P, Decety J (2004) How would you feel versus how do you think she would feel? A neuroimaging study of perspective-taking with social emotions. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. 16: 988–999.

If you want to know more about this topic, then you can buy Bryan Robinson’s book, #Chill at, or on his website,

Written by Bryan Robinson
Originally Appeared In Psychology Today

When it comes to mental health and therapy, there are many stereotypes and prejudices associated with it. Going for therapy doesn’t equate to being crazy, or loony; you are simply taking care of your mind, just like you do for your body. The first step to breaking this stigma is by breaking the myths about therapy. The moment these myths about therapy are debunked, people will gradually feel more comfortable talking about their mental health issues, which in turn helps them take better care of themselves.

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10 Common Myths About Therapy
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Bryan E. Robinson, Ph.D

Bryan E. Robinson, Ph.D., is a journalist, author, psychotherapist, and Professor Emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He has authored 42 books including his latest, #Chill: Turn Off Your Job And Turn On Your Life (William Morrow, 2019) and Chained to the Desk: A Guidebook for Workaholics, their Partners and Children, and the Clinicians who Treat Them (New York University Press, 2014), and Daily Writing Resilience (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2018). He is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a licensed mental health clinician. He maintains a private clinical practice in Asheville, NC, and writes for Forbes, Psychology Today, and Thrive Global. You can reach him at Author posts