What You Should Know About Therapy: 4 Myths of the Therapeutic Relationship

The following are misconceptions about therapy, psychotherapy, and counseling. We've compiled some common myths (especially about the first session). We then share with you our perspective at the Phoenix Counseling Collective. We hope this clears some things up.

Myth #1- I will solve my problems and this puzzle of life in the first session. 

Our Perspective: 

Do NOT expect to put the entire puzzle together on day one. We often find that the first few sessions are like dumping the puzzle pieces out of the box. Having the pieces all around can often feel overwhelming and sometimes unsettling. The idea is that you are holding a LOT in your puzzle box (struggles, stories, relationships, etc.) and it takes awhile to begin to put the pieces together. It takes time to figure out what areas we want to dive into first. It takes reflection to see how things connect in your brain and your situation. You probably won't leave with answers right away. You likely won't experience dramatic mood shifts right away either. The therapeutic relationship takes time to build. It is in the building of that safe space and relationship that the "work" is being done.

Myth #2- I will feel better after one session.

Our Perspective: 

Do not expect to feel an overwhelming sense of relief after a 50 minute session. While it is common to feel a sense of hopefulness and relief after an initial session, there can also be a sense of heaviness and discouragement. This can happen because you have brought to light the reality of the pain you are carrying. Sometimes it gets harder before it gets easier. (If you've ever been in physical therapy, it is a similar concept).  Don't expect your counselor to jump right in solving your problems. We need to be able to get a clear picture of who you are and how you work before jumping in immediately with exercises or insight.

Myth #3- I have to share everything I can in the first session! 

Our Perspective: 

It takes time to build up trust, openness, and vulnerability. Do not expect to have to share everything within the first session. People usually feel like they have to get it all out in one go. But, we find it helpful when clients give themselves permission to take it slow. You can share what you feel most comfortable with first. Take the second session to continue sharing more as it comes up. Also, don't expect your therapist to know exactly what questions to ask. While you don't need to feel pressure to share everything, still share what's on your heart. Even if your therapist hasn't asked you a specific question you can speak candidly. If they haven't asked you about something that is important to you, for example, your faith, or a recent life transition, feel free to tell them! Let your therapist know that it is important to you that they know this. Therapists, although often intuitive, are not mind readers.

Myth #4- The therapist is the expert and I am the patient. I will receive advice from my therapist. 

Our Perspective: 

You are an expert. You've been living with yourself for decades! (Assuming you're at least twenty.) Western medicine has shaped our culture in such a way that patients share symptoms with a doctor who then:

1) solves the mystery and

2) tells the patient what malady they have.

Instead, we prefer the collaborative approach. Our lens is that in the helping field, there should be a joint effort of two experts. The therapist may be an expert in the field of relationships, for example, but by collaborating with an expert on your life (this is you), we are able to achieve much more than either could on their own. The therapist's job to help you slow down. We help you connect with your own experience. We help you listen to the wisdom and knowledge that you already have inside. The therapist will mirror back to you the things that they see. You get to use that feedback in your process. It is through this joint effort that therapy happens. As a result, you are able to be more present with your internal self. You can then consciously make decisions out of your true nature. Don't expect your therapist to give advice - especially in the first session. Therapists hesitate to give advice especially early on because remember they need a lot of consultation and information from YOU.

If you have specific questions that were not addressed in this post, or if this is the type of therapy that you are looking for, feel free to Contact Us.

Take Care,

The Phoenix Counseling Collective Team

~Caleb, Elisa, Andy, Kim, and Molly~


P.S. If you want a little holiday therapy humor: http://www.psychotherapy.net/uploads/4ee5e05656612.jpg

Oh, and by the way, if you were wondering... we don't use Freud's psychoanalytic style of having patients lay supine on a cold leather couch while he evaluated them. Our couches are generally warm and comfortable. While you're welcome to lay down if you want to, you can just sit and talk face to face. 

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash