What are common fallacies about psychotherapy?

Answer to Quora question: "Psychotherapy: What are common fallacies about psychotherapy?"

Thanks for the A2A.

- Psychotherapy is somehow different than any other healing modality. It isn't - or at least it's not supposed to be. If we have a (mental-emotional-relational) health issue we want to address, a good psychotherapist should be able to help.

- All psychotherapists are equal. Therapists are like violinists - there are virtuoso soloists, first chair orchestral violinists, second chair and so on all the way down to the squeaky fiddler performing on the street. Really capable virtuosos are pretty rare. Street fiddlers are a lot more common. So shop around! (see selecting therapist on integrallifework.com)

- All psychotherapeutic approaches are equal. Each approach has its strengths and weaknesses, and some work better for one condition than another. Researching what technique tends to work best for a particular need can be very helpful.

- Degrees and certifications equate competence. One of the best therapists I ever experienced was a minister with no psychotherapeutic credentials. Another was an "intuitive healer" who provided some timely and effective insights. Another was a social worker. Another was a counselor in grade school. I'm sure you are getting the picture. The skills and qualities a good psychotherapist will usually have - humility, empathy, engaged listening, validation, intuitive intelligence, carefully probing questions, etc. - can be found in many people who aren't psychotherapists. I am not saying we should not use psychotherapy licensing and credentials to help separate the wheat from the chaff in terms of competence and professionalism, but those shouldn't be the only criteria. Because there are a lot (far too many, IMO) of really crappy psychotherapists out there.

- A good psychotherapist is highly directive, having a position of power over a client. I think one of the more harmful fallacies is the belief that therapists are supposed to take control, telling us what is wrong with us and then how to fix it. This passive expectation is incredibly disruptive to the client-centered, collaborative therapeutic processes that have proven the most effective. Therapists are supposed to empower their clients, not themselves.

- Psychotherapy is for crazy people. This is just dumb. Psychotherapy is for everyone who wants to improve their mental, emotional and psychosocial well-being, regardless of how "high-functioning" they may be.

- Psychotherapy is long-term and expensive. There are many short-term approaches that have proven quite effective - so much so that only three or four sessions may be enough to create positive change. Again, this goes to the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches.

- Psychotherapists can prescribe drugs. Psychiatrists are MDs who practice psychotherapy and can also prescribe drugs...psychotherapists cannot.

There are probably many more fallacies out there...but those are some off the top of my head that I have encountered quite often.


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