DON’T Start Therapy Without Knowing These 5 Destructive Beliefs

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My jaw hit the floor when I realised what I’d done.

It was unbelievable.

At that moment I wished for one thing and one thing only. I wished that I was a time-traveller. I wished I could go back with what I know now and just do it all again.

Therapy, that is.

Yep, it’s a strange wish, I get it. But hear me out. See, ten years ago I had my first experience with a therapist.

It can probably be summed up in one word. Disastrous.

I walked into the room carrying a bunch of false beliefs about therapy, the therapist, the process and my role in it. Not to mention false beliefs about myself. So, after five or awkward, combative, yawn-filled, watch-checking sessions, I walked out — with a bitter taste in my mouth.

Disillusioned and angered by the whole process, I battled through five more years of low moods and anxiety before I even gave therapy another chance. On top of that, when I finally did see another therapist, I entered with many of the same destructive ideas and they unconsciously blocked my potential progress.

The result: thousands of dollars, down the drain.

Sure, sometimes it felt good to get some things off my chest. But was it worth it? Was I seeing things in a new light? Was I truly getting what I wanted out of therapy? It hurts to say this, but no, not at all.

Finally, I ended up with a therapist who I liked, and he not only took me through therapy, but he also taught me exactly what therapy was. Since then I went on to finish Masters in Applied Neuroscience (the neuroscience of mental health) and then trained to become a therapist myself.

When I sat at the other side of the table, it all became so clear — THAT is when my jaw dropped. Seeing all the misinformed ideas I had about therapy, I wished that someone could have told me this before I began my journey.

If I had known what I’m about to tell you, I’m confident I would have made much more rapid progress in therapy.

Anyway, what’s done is done. But I felt it would be a shame if I didn’t share this with anyone else who was going through therapy or thinking about doing so.

Here are 5 destructive beliefs that stop you from getting the most out of therapy.

#5. “I’m paying the therapist for their time.”

On one level this is the case. The therapist has decided to charge by the hour, or whatever the case may be. But on a deeper level, what you’re actually paying for is their expertise and the opportunity to make a change.Change does not happen in therapy, it happens what we call ‘integration’ — the day to day application of what comes up in therapy. That’s why it’s so important to do two things:

  1. Reflect on your sessions during the week.
  2. Reflect on your week during the sessions.

Tip: Keep a journal between therapy sessions to track your thoughts, emotions and goals

#4. “I’m not that interested in their background.”

Knowing the background of your therapist is vital. For the most part, you don’t need to know their academic achievements. But do you know the difference between a counsellor, psychotherapist, psychologist and psychiatrist? Or the difference between a cognitive-behavioural, person-centred, gestalt and psychoanalytic approach therapy. Do you want to be talking about your thoughts, feelings and emotions or would you prefer to analyse dreams and patterns in your past? Above all, you want to make sure that whatever your primary reason for coming to therapy is; depression, relationship issues, anxiety, trauma, or chronic pain, they need to have experience with it.

Tip: Do your research and choose something with experience and a style that sounds

#3. “The therapist is the expert.”

The therapeutic relationship is not a one-way street, it’s a collaboration. The therapist may be an expert when it comes to asking the right questions at the right time, and guiding the conversation, but they aren’t an expert on your emotions. I assumed that the therapist would ‘figure out’ whatever needed to be talked about, we’d get to the core of my issues and that would be that. But that’s not the case, to really open up, I needed practical radical honesty — the skill of being aware and truthful of what was happening in my body and mind at any given time. This required vigilance both in and out of the therapy sessions.

Tip: Be mindful of your feelings during the session and practice being radically honest with your therapist.

#2. “The morning is the best time for therapy.”

When I first started therapy, I just decided to do it in the morning. This was for no other reason than that it was more convenient for me. But the time of day you decide to do therapy is very important. We all run on circadian rhythms, which means our energy levels and mood fluctuate throughout the day. My problem was that I’ve always been what you might call a morning person, so when I talked to the therapist in the morning, I’d generally be in a good mood. I’d also tend to have one eye on the work day ahead, so I wouldn’t be fully present. One day, however, I had a session at 6pm, straight after a long, tiring day, and I was in a terrible mood. The therapist almost seemed surprised, he commented that I was much more engaged with the negative emotions I would talk about in the morning sessions. This actually made for a much more productive session than doing it in the morning before I’d met the challenges of the day. There is not Abest time for therapy, there is only YOUR best time for therapy.

Tip: Schedule sessions at a time where you think you’ll be most connected to your feelings and open to share them.

#1. “I’m not supposed to have a relationship with my therapist.”

This is the number one problem that almost no one outside of the therapeutic community knows. The second biggest factor — outside of external life events — that determines a positive or negative outcome with therapy, is the relationship between the therapist and the client. No you should not have a personal relationship with your therapist, but you should absolutely develop a healthy professional relationship with them.

You need to find a therapist that you 1. Like 2. Respect and 3. Trust. If you are working with someone who does not tick at least 2 out of 3 of those points, you will probably not get very far in therapy. The greatest therapeutic relationship I ever had (and the most progress I made in therapy) was with my FIFTH!!! therapist.

Tip: Do not just settle with the first therapist you talk to.

Can I Give You 7-Days Free Therapy?

Online therapy can help you with a lot of the problems I’ve just meantioned. That’s why I want to offer you a free 7-day trial with my partners at BetterHelp — the most comprehensive online therapy service in the world.

They give you a free psychometric personality quiz and match you up with an online therapist who has experience with your personality-type and particular issue. It’s far cheaper than most therapists, you can contact them over text 24-hours a day, and if at any point you don’t feel like the relationship is going well, you can request a new therapist and they give you one immediately. (In fact, I have a friend who said he went through 10+ different therapists before he found the perfect one for him — though I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that).

VISIT THIS LINK to get a FREE 7 day trial. You may be asked to enter your credit card details, but you can cancel at any time.

(Full disclosure, I’ve used BetterHelp in the past and written about my experience HERE. I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t believe in it. The above link is an affiliate link, meaning I get a commission if you continue using BetterHelp.)

Published by

Ben Fishel

Ben is an author, psychotherapist and the creator of Project Monkey Mind, a blog that looks at Psychology and Spirituality to find practical wisdom for the digital age. He holds an MSc. in Applied Neuroscience from King's College London and a Bachelors in Psychology from the University of Queensland.

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