1. Only people with real problems go to therapy.
Wait, don’t we all have *real* problems?
Living in 2018 is stressful. Sometimes very stressful. Knowing when and how to be happy with yourself can take a backseat while being surrounded by the seemingly more urgent demands of the everyday reality. There’s not enough time to figure out if this career is the right one; if the person sharing our pillow is forever or what to have for dinner to ensure a healthy diet. We want to be happy; to be attractive, recognised, to matter. In a pursuit to fulfilment, it’s easy to become caught up in a cycle of mundanity; here, we only exist to complete daily checklists of tasks and chores without much thought for our wellbeing. This leaves us vulnerable to feeling out of control of our world and resentful towards those we choose to compare ourselves with. Most of what we notice automatically becomes ‘better’ or ‘worse’; witnessing someone’s loss can situate us centrally on a moving scale – ‘better’, because we still have our job, partner etc. so help is unnecessary, and ‘worse’ with assuming we don’t qualify for it either, having lost nothing. Within our own whirlwind, we begin to feel irritable, stressed or upset without the safety of a ‘real’ reason for these emotions. More importantly, we also experience loneliness brought on by such comparisons. Psychotherapy can help address ourselves again, stripping off persistent self – judgement and providing a safe space to regain strength. Every person’s realm deserves attention and consideration.
2. The therapist will fix everything because they’re an omnipotent guru.
The central fixture in the therapeutic alliance is you; a good practitioner will help you re-establish that. Without judgement or prejudice, you are taking another person (granted, who fulfils specific educational requirements and possesses a good degree of empathy!) on a journey. This stranger has not lived your circumstances but your active participation in the dialogue will ensure they are able to see what you’re going through. The therapist will join you in safe exploration of your feelings and behavioural patterns at your pace; on the quest to discover what has been forgotten or lacked your attention, putting you back in control of your life. There is no magic wand. Therapists aren’t gods. The focus is on you while your relationship with the counsellor remains in balance, away from pedestals.
3. We’re just going to talk about my childhood.
Many of our behavioural patterns are established in childhood and throughout adolescence. This is when we first learn how to act through observing and imitating our parents or relevant adults. Have you ever wondered why you respond to conflict the way you do? It’s possible that you’ve absorbed what you’ve witnessed and accepted at an early age, reproducing it somehow as you go through adulthood. It’s worth looking closer at those memories, particularly if discomfort consistently steers you away from conflict situations, or navigates towards providing aggressive responses mid - row. Therapy can help you discover reasons behind your feelings and behaviour, guiding you to developing a more autonomous and conscious self.
4. I didn’t like my previous therapist so I won’t like the next one.
Therapists are people. It’s impossible to like everyone you meet so finding the right one can sometimes be challenging. We don’t stop having relationships altogether because of the ones we had to end or those we didn’t maintain; a therapeutic relationship works the same way! It may be worth establishing reasons for the way we felt about our previous counselling encounter and differentiating between what was happening with us at the time, where we were emotionally in life and with ourselves, and what specifically led us to deciding to leave. It could be helpful to talk about your concerns and expectations with the next practitioner to make sure both of you are clear on aims and boundaries. Good therapists will offer phone consultations prior to booking an appointment; this can lead to determining whether you feel that the person you call is the right one to accompany you on your journey to self – discovery.
5. I should be able to fix my own problems.
Feeling lost and submerged in a reality you are not enjoying, doesn’t equal failure. If you accept that you can’t bear DIY, don’t have a clue how to fix your car or cut your own hair, why not accept that you need (or want!) help with how you feel from a qualified practitioner? Although the media has shown a more open approach to discussing mental health, there is still a large amount of stigma surrounding seeking therapy. Some of it stems from lack of understanding what happens during sessions; some is grasped by fear: what if I am not normal? What if others find out?
…And back to comparisons, where nothing good ever really happens. Allowing yourself to reach for help to feel relieved, real, stronger, important and heard serves as a much more constructive approach to self. Making the first step towards a better reality can be the hardest, but sharing your voyage with another person who sees you and considers you important can make the choice easier.
6. Therapy will cost me a fortune.
There are various ways of obtaining therapeutic help. The NHS provides free – to – all counselling post- referral from the GP but comes with a long waiting list. The private sector offers a range of approaches through talking therapies but cost is attached. Prices range vastly, depending on where you are geographically and how experienced a therapist is, although not always. The price of therapy is linked to business rates including room rental, your therapist may be able to reduce the price if you opt for Skype therapy where overheads are minimised. Some practitioners offer concessions for students or the unemployed; it’s worth asking about before you book an appointment. Consider counselling as something you do for yourself, like a haircut. How much are you able to and willing to spend?
Article published in the 'In Focus' magazine for The Guild of Television Camera Professionals
Alex Iga Golabek Bsc (Hons) MNCP | Ego Therapy