Psychotherapy – Movies vs. Reality

Psychotherapy – Movies vs. Reality

Someone suggested that you see a psychologist… Psychologist? No way! After watching all these movies and TV shows, you know what a psychologist is and what this person does. Who doesn’t?! Isn’t he the crazy doc with German accent wearing a large shiny disc on his forehead and an insane grin on his face? Think Jack Nicholson type. Of course, there is also a “boring version” of a psychologist repeating “tell me more about it” and watching the clock… No, I don’t need this one either.

Let’s start with surprising statement that media slightly distorts how psychologists work. Let’s have a look at movie inspired wisdom and reality.

What movies make you believe?

Mentally unstable and deranged people wearing straightjackets are the only ones to go to psychotherapy.

What you should believe:

This is totally false. There exists a gamut of reasons in everyday life for which ordinary people seek psychotherapeutic aid – from symptoms of depression to anxiety and substance abuse. Many others seek it to find a way of coping with crises such as major life transformations, loss of a loved one, loss of a job, a divorce, or many other such stressful situations. There are yet others, who desire a helping hand to let them manage and balance the demands parenthood places on them, along with work and family responsibilities they have to cope with. Medical ailments, improvement of relationship skills, and coping with other stressors also comprise some of the reasons behind people’s motives to opt for psychotherapy. In earlier times, when psychotherapy was still in its infancy and not very well understood, people dreaded visiting a therapist. In modern times, as society has evolved, seeking psychotherapeutic help is viewed as a sign of resourcefulness.

Even the Federal Government expressed its support for mental health treatment by passing the Mental Health Parity Act in 2008.

 

What movies make you believe…
Would you not, rather, nestle nearer to your mother or whisper to your friend about your problems? What is the need for consulting a psychologist, who is a total stranger? He doesn’t know me any better than they do…

What you should believe…
During difficult times, it’s only human for someone to seek support from his family or peers but also human to analyze situations, adapt, and act accordingly. A psychologist has spent many years gaining an insight deep into the human mind through specialized study and professional experience. Thus, they apply scientific techniques developed over hundreds of years of human history that have proved fruitful in solving our problems. A psychologist is trained to recognize behavioral patterns and understand your mental workings just by objective observations – something that most family members and peers are unable to do.

The confidentiality of the therapy and the psychologist’s neutral stance allows you to become naturally honest with him as sessions progress. (Although in a few exceptional cases, that vow of confidentiality no longer holds in case you pose a threat to yourself or to someone else. It then becomes the duty of the psychologist to inform those closest to you)
What movies make you believe?

Regardless what the problem is, if you keep calm and maintain a positive attitude, you can get better on your own.
What you should believe:

It works for some lucky few. The very obvious reason why so many people consult a psychotherapist is because self-counseling is seldom ever sufficient. Self-healing enthusiasts have often felt aroused to help themselves through some self-generated ideas, but in vain.
Every self-healer makes you believe that your desire for starting psychotherapy is the first signs that you have failed. This doesn’t establish or prove in any way, that you actually have failed in it, just like it doesn’t mean you have failed if you can’t repair your own car.
If you happen to have some biological disorder that prevents you from healing yourself, stop becoming anxious! Your courage of moving out of the crowd and asking for the rightful help you deserve takes you farther along the success level than those self-healers could ever hope to achieve.

 

What the movies make you believe:

Psychologists sit there all the time, listening to you whine and complain. Why pay for that?!

What you should actually believe:
As the part of his therapeutic procedure, a psychologist would often begin his session by asking you to describe the problem that had led you to his clinic.. And none of this will seem like an interview… It would continue for some time and before you even realize it, you would be pouring out fountains of words that describe your feelings, emotions, etc., just like talking to a very close buddy, professionally trained to help you. It’s just the wonderful way psychotherapy works – interactive, informative, collaborative, and full of discussions in how the problem in focus could be solved.

You may even receive remedial homework assignments that would let you join your therapist in identifying problems, set long term goals, and monitor progress, thereby moving toward accomplishing your solution!

 

What the movies make you believe:

The entire therapy would just be a blame battle waged against all of your family or your childhood.

What you should actually believe:

Some part of a psychotherapy session may include personal questions and discussions. The psychologist could ask you several questions about your childhood just to explore your personal history and identify significant events that could lead up to your problem. Family related information is gathered by the psychologist as a part of his investigation just to help him understand in full perspective, your coping strategies, emotions, etc. In other words, he explores your past and takes advice from it to make your future better.

Some psychologists may, however, totally exclude exploring back to your past and actively focus on the present problem that brought you to therapy. He would teach you procedures and techniques that would help change your thoughts or behavior toward your problem. In this case, the psychologist will know how to combine your past discoveries with your present problematic thought approaches and will guide the session accordingly.

 

What the movies want you to believe:

Psychotherapy takes really long time and may continue for many years.

What you should actually believe:

As human psychology varies, no hard and fast procedures exist that would prove beneficial for everyone. Because everyone is very different, their way of dealing with a particular problem would also be different. Thus, psychotherapy could proceed at different rates for different people. In a study conducted specifically to monitor this occurrence, 50% of patients improved after attending only 8 sessions whereas 75% improved over 6 months. Your psychologist has no intention of trapping you. His goal is to help you to get better as fast as you can. You could always talk to your psychologist about this aspect initially, when a treatment plan is being developed.

 

What the movies want you to believe:

Your employer will know you are in psychotherapy if you pay for services from your health insurance.

 

What you should actually believe:

In psychotherapy, your confidentiality is always given the first priority. Hence, no one except you, yourself, and your psychologist can know about the session you are attending. An outsider can only know if you give written approval to your psychologist to talk to a close friend or a family member. The vow of confidentiality is always protected under legal rights, protected more than medical records.