A Mental Health Expert Debunks The Biggest Myths About Therapy

Though 450 million people around the world struggle with their mental health, only one-third of those people seek the help they need, according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America. Lisa Kruger, Ph.D., LPC, a psychotherapist at Stepping Stone Psychotherapy in Alexandria, VA, debunks some of the myths about therapy in an exclusive interview with Health Digest.

Kruger says the biggest myth is that something is "wrong" with someone who sees a therapist. "People tend to come to therapy when they feel stuck, or need guidance to look at something from a different perspective," she said. People might see a therapist to help with a relationship or job transition, to help them work through anything that makes them feel "stuck." "However acute the situation is, none of it is 'wrong.' In fact, acknowledging that someone needs help is a show of something very right with them."

Therapy also doesn't mean taking medications, Kruger said. Although medications can supplement therapy, talk therapy alone can help clients improve their mental health. Kruger says the third myth is that therapy gives you a quick fix for your problems. "Therapy should be viewed more as a process, and that timeline is person-specific," she said. "Progress varies depending on the individual and the nature of their concerns."

What to do if you're hesitant about therapy

Another reason why people might resist therapy is they don't know where to start in finding the right therapist. Kruger suggests finding a directory where you can search for a therapist that suits your personality and style. You can also browse by their location and area of specialty. Good Therapy and Mental Health Match offer bios and personalized matches to fit your budget and goals.

People might also resist therapy because they feel awkward opening up to a stranger, or they fear opening up Pandora's box of anxieties and emotions. However, therapists are trained to guide you through the healing process. Kruger suggests talking with family or friends who have worked with a therapist to find out how the process worked for them.

Even if you still have doubts about seeing a therapist, Kruger says to schedule a free consultation with a therapist to answer questions. This consultation can also give you an idea of how the therapist might be able to work with you.

What to expect when going to a therapist

Kruger says that the first session with a therapist is key to establishing a good relationship. Your therapist will find out your current concerns, goals, as well as your background to understand your unique situation. That will help the therapist tailor your sessions accordingly. A good relationship with your therapist can be a better predictor of success than the therapist's degree or years of practice.

Your therapist will use specific methods to help in your mental health journey. "Therapy provides a space to do self-exploration and insight practices, as this is a muscle that is not typically strengthened in our jobs or day-to-day lives," Kruger said. "This could be looking at emotions, thoughts, behaviors, or underlying patterns." Therapy also means providing a space with less judgment and more vulnerability.

Once you leave your therapist's office, you'll probably have some homework. These are practices that you learn during your sessions to implement in your life. "This can include new coping skills, communication techniques, [and] different ways of managing stress or organizing [your] emotions." These strategies will help you deal with the challenges you might face.