It can be a big step to consider seeing a psychologist.
Of course, there are a whole range of reasons, but part of the picture seems to relate to the secrecy and myths surrounding therapy.
Conversations about mental health are increasing and stigma is reducing, but a whole range of myths, misunderstandings, misconceptions and stereotypes about seeing a psychologist still remain.
Understandably some of this misinformation can actually put people off seeking help.
In this post we’ve set out to bust some of the most common myths and demystify the process of seeing a psychologist.
Speaking about your emotions and thoughts will only make them worse.
Of course different approaches work for different people, but in general, scientific studies show that when we speak about our thoughts and emotions they actually decrease in intensity.
This seems to be because talking about things can help you to work through confusion, problem-solve, see things from a new perspective, discover solutions and find clarity. Chatting can also help you to get some distance from your thoughts and feelings, and to feel less alone.
Psychologists are experts in mental health, so they mustn’t have their own mental health issues, relationship problems or difficulties in life.
If only this were true! Although psychologists spend at least six years studying the way the human mind works, it doesn’t protect us from facing the normal challenges of being human. Even after learning all of the evidence-based strategies and theories, like everyone, we still have blindspots and at times find it hard to apply these skills and to take care of our own mental health. We’re a work-in-progress, just like everyone else!
Psychologists always give their clients a diagnosis.
Although psychologists are trained in the diagnosis of mental health issues, it is not always helpful or relevant for a psychologist to provide a diagnosis, and sometimes clients don’t meet the criteria for a diagnosis anyway.
At Inner Melbourne Clinical Psychology, our team work in a client-centred way. This means that we work together with you to figure out whether it will be useful and relevant to explore potential diagnoses. We will also chat with you about any hunches, recommendations or ideas we have because we believe that open and collaborative discussions are an essential part of us providing effective help.
A psychologist is only helpful if you have mental health issues.
Although many of our clients experience mental health issues, or have in the past, we also have clients who come to see us because they:
- Are at a cross-road or turning point in their life
- Notice that they’re not feeling like they’re regular self and want to chat about why this might be
- Need extra support to navigate a big change – like retiring, becoming a parent, having trouble conceiving, being diagnosed with a chronic or terminal illness, starting university, or going through a break-up
- Are looking for ways to enhance their wellbeing
- Want to get to know themselves better
- Value having someone objective and non-judgemental to chat about life’s up and downs with
- Want a place where they can speak about issues that feel too confronting, upsetting or personal to speak openly with family and friends about
- Want to feel more connected in their relationships
- Want to feel more satisfied or fulfilled in their life
- Notice the same patterns popping up in their life over and over again and want to understand more about this
- Have a specific issue or decision that they want to work through. For example decisions about career-changes or study, relationships, health or lifestyle.
If your symptoms improve and you start to feel better, there’s no reason to continue seeing a psychologist.
It’s common to decide to take a break from therapy when your symptoms improve and you start to feel like you’re getting back on track.
This makes sense, but when you feel stable and well, it can also be an ideal opportunity to explore why it is that certain patterns of thinking and behaviour continue to unfold in your life.
Why is this an ideal time to look at past patterns? Because when your symptoms improve you’ll probably find yourself in a clearer headspace. You’ll might also notice that you feel less vulnerable and less defensive or guarded which might mean you feel more comfortable to talk openly about some of the patterns you’ve noticed. Essentially, when you’re feeling pretty stable and smooth, you’ll have more fuel in your tank to go deeper with exploring these issues.
Not everyone wants to dig deeper and explore ongoing patterns in their life though, and that’s okay. But for clients who do want to do this “next level” type of work, therapy can be a rewarding, eye-opening experience. It can help you to get to know yourself in a totally different way and open up new ways of seeing the world.
You should be able to find a psychologist who feels like the right match straight away.
Just like we don’t click with every person we meet, sometimes clients and psychologists don’t click.
If you meet with a psychologist and don’t feel like you gel, as frustrating and disappointing as this can be, don’t give up. Feeling comfortable with your psychologist is really important and worth persisting with.
At Inner Melbourne Clinical Psychology each of our psychologists understands and genuinely values the importance of finding someone you get along with and trust. We won’t be offended or defensive if you decide that you would like to try another psychologist. We think these discussions are important and pride ourselves on being open to feedback about the way we work.
Psychologists are very serious people and therapy is very serious, too!
This myth is a funny one! Although each psychologist of course has their own unique personality, most of us are not as serious as television shows like The Sopranos make out. We’re really lucky to have a team of down-to-earth, low key psychologists here at Inner Melbourne Clinical Psychology. Many people on our team really enjoy having a laugh with their clients and chatting about the lighter side of life! Sometimes there’s nothing better than sharing a belly laugh together!
Psychologists always focus on the past, especially your childhood.
When you first see a psychologist, in order for them to be able to get an accurate picture of what’s happening for you, they will ask you some questions about your past, including your childhood. This helps the psychologist to get to know you better and it also helps them to understand the bigger picture and how it links to what you’re wanting help with.
We understand that this process can sometimes be a daunting one. We’ll take things at your pace though and will leave it up to you to decide what you do and don’t want to speak about.
After this initial getting-to-know-you-process you and your psychologist will decide together what the focus of your sessions will be. Often clients find it helpful to focus on the present initially and then when they feel like their symptoms are improving or they’re getting back on track, they may wish to look at the past for clues about why certain symptoms or patterns keep coming up. Other clients decide that they’d like the sessions to be focused in the present only. You and your psychologist will chat about what feels most comfortable and beneficial for you.
I’ll feel pressured to come in for appointments even when I don’t want to, or don’t feel I need to.
At Inner Melbourne Clinical Psychology ,we are client-centred psychologists. This means that we are always guided by what you want and need.
We may make recommendations and provide suggestions about how often to attend sessions, but ultimately we don’t feel it’s helpful or ethical for people to feel coerced to come along to see their psychologist.
We understand that sometimes people want to come and go from therapy as it suits them and that some people only want to attend for 1-2 sessions. Our aim is to chat openly about this with you, but we value and respect that at the end of the day, these decisions are yours.
There’s no difference between speaking with a psychologist and speaking with a family member or friend.
A psychologist can provide a perspective that is unique and unbiased, in part because they are not involved in your personal life and therefore have no vested interested, but also because psychologists undergo extensive training to learn to listen in a way that is active, empathic, non-judgemental and objective. This particular way of listening often allows people to open up and explore beliefs, memories, experiences, ideas, fears and feelings that they might feel reluctant to speak about with friends or family.
Therapy is also a space reserved just for you. You can let go of the need to check-in with and take care of others. Your sessions give you time to focus solely on yourself. This can be confronting and uncomfortable at first, but with time it can feel freeing to have a space where you can be open and honest about what’s happening for you.
Where to from here?
We hope this post has helped to debunk some of the myths and misconceptions that might have got in the way of you going ahead with seeing a psychologist. If you have other questions about seeing a psychologist, take a look at our FAQ page.
It can be a significant step to make the decision to see someone, but we think it’s well worth the time and effort.
If you’re ready to get started with seeing your own psychologist you can read more about our team of experienced clinicians or you can get started by booking an appointment.
If you’d prefer to speak to someone about which of our psychologists might suit you best, give our friendly Support Team a call on (03) 9376 1958. We’ll help to make the process of finding a psychologist as smooth as possible.