Deciding to get help for mental health issues is no easy feat. Finding the right therapist and exposing your most intimate thoughts often means overcoming multiple mental hurdles standing in your way. In fact, research suggests that just 49 percent of people with major depression aren’t getting treatment for it, and the fear of facing a therapist might just be the reason why.
However, while seeing a therapist can feel scary, learning the ins and outs of this unique profession may help you feel more comfortable before you book that appointment. We’ve compiled 20 things your therapist won’t tell you, demystifying those sessions in the process. And when you want to work on yourself outside therapy, start with the 25 Ways to Be Happier Now!
They Can Only Help You If You Want Help
The first step toward any therapeutic goal is wanting to achieve it. In fact, the only way your therapist can really help you is if you’re willing to involve yourself in the process. “There are people who are content, even happy, in their dysfunctional ways or relationships. I could talk till my face turned blue (or my client could talk till their face turned blue) but if they are shutout, things won’t get very far. It’s as sad as it is frustrating,” says one therapist. And for more trade secrets, don’t miss the 20 Things Your Divorce Lawyer Won’t Tell You.
Drinking Is One of the Biggest Issues They See
Before you head to a psychiatrist to ask for antidepressants, try limiting the number of depressant substances you’re taking in. For many people, this means steering clear of booze.
“Excessive alcohol consumption, at a level not usually considered problematic, impacts people a lot more than they think it does,” says one therapist. “Think about cutting down your drink before turning to anti-depressants.” Thinking you’re ready to put down the bottle? Try these 7 Genius Tricks for Navigating Your Dry January.
Their Note-Taking Does Serve a Real Purpose
It can feel very strange to have a therapist take notes on everything you say during a session, but don’t worry: they serve a very important purpose. And no, they’re not writing the ways they judge you.
“I read my [notes] when [patients leave] the room,” reveals one therapist. “It’s just notes of everything I said, and potential thought paths that can be followed, as well as potential conclusions.”
Your Therapist is Probably in Therapy
While saying “all therapists are crazy” is a bit reductive, it’s probably true that the person treating you is in treatment themselves. “I actually get really annoyed when I hear of therapists who’ve never been in therapy,” says one therapist. “In fact, I am currently in therapy, and I think it’s good practice for therapists to be in therapy.” And for more on the benefits of therapy, know that it’s one of the 40 Secrets of Couples Who’ve Been Together for 40 Years.
Their Careers Can Be Isolating
While setting your own schedule and charging $250 an hour may seem like a dream, a therapist’s career has plenty of downfalls, including isolation. “Professional isolation is real, especially when you’re solo like I am,” admits one therapist. “I have a few outlets where I’m able to connect with others, but unless I’m very intentional about doing so, I can quickly start to feel disconnected from my peers.” And if you’re feeling isolated or depressed, consider these 70 Genius Tricks to Get Instantly Happy.
Violent Behavior is Par for the Course
While most people imagine therapy being a gentle and soothing process, many therapists are exposed to violence in their line of work. “I have had clients physically attack me,” says one therapist. “Every time it freaks me out.”
It’s Pretty Common for Parents Not to Love Their Kids
Think you’re a monster for not feeling particularly bonded to members of your family, even your own children? You’re definitely not alone. “Not caring deeply for family members [is common]. Especially for their children,” says one therapist. “They expect this instinct to kick in at some point where they’ll feel fiercely protective, but it never happens.”
Crying Doesn’t Faze Them in the Slightest
If you feel odd about crying in front of your therapist, don’t. Crying is a natural and healthy part of the process. “I can’t speak for all of us, but the majority (I think) are pretty comfortable with crying,” says one therapist. “The ones who aren’t need to get there or find a new job. I’ve told many clients that if they are feeling uncomfortable (angry, upset, teary, etc) we are probably moving the right direction.”
Seemingly Small Problems Can Cause Major Stress
Just because an issue seems small to someone else doesn’t mean it can’t cause you serious trauma. Being hung up on seemingly minor issues is something therapists see every day, and it’s well worth exploring. “Someone’s distress about their problem doesn’t necessarily correlate with how big that problem objectively looks to others,” reveals one therapist. And if you’re looking for simple ways to get out of your mental rut, the 25 Best Instant Mood Boosters are a great place to start.
Narcissists Are Some of Their Hardest Patients
While violent patients may be the scariest, the ones with narcissistic personality disorder are generally the hardest to treat.
“The worst one I’ve seen have almost constant complaints about everyone else in their lives and even society as a whole,” says one therapist of their narcissistic patients. “The saddest cases are the ones that are really failing at life. They’re so bitter and they often can’t get any further than complaining about everybody else.”
They Do Get Frustrated With Their Patients
Just because your therapist is keeping their cool in front of you doesn’t mean they’re not frustrated. A lack of progress or insight can be a major source of frustration, even for a seasoned pro. “I’m not much of a yeller in general, but yes, I’m human and do get frustrated. There are definitely times I want to say, ‘Just try ____!!!! I know it will work, gah!!'” says one therapist.
They Often Don’t Get to See the Outcome of Their Work
While it’s nice to imagine that every therapeutic relationship comes to a satisfying conclusion, that’s rarely the case. “Not all of my clients keep in touch after we work together, so often don’t get an idea of how many I have helped in a lasting way,” reveals one mental health professional. “It’s one of the hard things about being a therapist.”
Bad Parenting Causes Some of the Worst Mental Health Outcomes
Bad parents do more than ruin birthdays—they ruin lives. “Having bad parents will mess you up for life,” says one psychologist. “Even if you find a way to have career success, a happy relationship, and meet other goals, internally something will be off for you.”
Intrusive Thoughts Happen to Everyone
If you’ve ever found yourself thinking what your landlord looks like naked or wondering what it would be like to jump in front of a moving train, you’re not alone. Intrusive thoughts happen to many people, even those who aren’t suffering from mental illness.
“Sudden, unwelcome, sometimes even violent, thoughts that pop into your head are also normal and not indicative of psychopathology or sexual perversion. They’re intrusive thoughts and as long as you don’t think you’re going to act on them, there’s no reason to worry about them,” assures one therapist.
Most People Repeat the Same Destructive Patterns
Even if it feels like the issue you’re going to therapy for is a new one, odds are it’s actually something that’s come up before. “Very little about you is original as we’re constantly repeating patterns we’ve learned since childhood,” says one therapist. “When humans find a solution, no matter how maladaptive it turns out to be in the long run, we stubbornly keep trying it over and over and over.” Luckily, you can start making healthier choices today by performing The Single Best Exercise for Your Brain!
Fear of Judgment is More Universal Than Patients Think
Think you’ll sound paranoid if you reveal your concerns about being judged by others? Don’t worry: this fear is practically universal. The most common fears, according to one therapist? “That everyone is looking at them and their decisions and judging them [and] that their family can’t relate.”
They Know When Patients Aren’t Sober
Heading to therapy when you’ve had a few is not only obvious to your therapist, it may be grounds for them to end your relationship. In fact, one therapist says that being under the influence of drugs or alcohol is the worst thing a patient can do during a session.
Sleeping With Patients Will End a Therapist’s Career
Many patients may fantasize about having a tryst with their therapist, but don’t count on it happening. Not only is it wildly unprofessional, most therapists agree that fellow clinicians who cross the line with patients should lose their licenses.
“Some therapists find a client’s vulnerability sexy or enticing. While I never have, a woman who graduated with me had her license yanked for engaging in inappropriate relations with a male client,” reveals one therapist. “Honestly, it isn’t worth losing your career over.”
Confidentiality is Everything to Them
Don’t be worried about your therapist blabbing about your issues to their friends and family. In fact, confidentiality is one of the most important parts of their profession.
“I only need to break confidentiality if the person is a danger to themselves or other people,” says one therapist. “Thankfully, it’s pretty rare for the most part.”
Just Because They’re a Therapist Doesn’t Mean They’re Your Therapist
Finding the right therapist for you can be an amazing experience. However, that doesn’t mean that every therapist you meet is auditioning for the role.
“As soon as you mention the word psychology people see it as a gateway to tell you all of their problems. A simple lighthearted conversation with a stranger can turn into me knowing their full family history and the reasons why they drink so much,” says one psychologist. Luckily, you can still improve your mental health outside of therapy— just Steal These 16 Mental Health Secrets of Famous Geniuses!
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