Most people who struggle with addiction also struggle with another mental health issue, typically depression, anxiety, ADHD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, PTSD, or antisocial personality disorder. This is why therapy is therapy is part of nearly all reputable addiction treatment programs. Even if you are going the 12-step route without entering a treatment program, it will help your recovery to talk to a therapist with experience treating addiction. Unfortunately, many people have misconceptions about what therapy is like, which makes them reluctant to get help. The following are some popular ideas that aren’t typically true of therapy.
‘Tell me about your mother.’
For most people, therapy conjures a picture of Freudian psychoanalysis where you spend an hour every day for ten years lying on a couch telling a mostly silent therapist about your dreams. These days, cognitive behavioural therapy, or CBT is much more common. It’s much more focused than psychoanalysis. Instead of exploring your childhood, therapists typically start with the immediate issue and only gets into matters immediately related to that issue. For example, if you come in because of anxiety, the therapist might ask for a specific example of something that made you anxious, then get into what you were thinking about when that happened and so on. Then you will typically work together to find strategies for dealing with those situations that cause anxiety. And usually you just sit in a comfy chair, although you can probably lie on a couch if you really want to.
Therapy means you’re crazy.
Most people could probably benefit from therapy to some extent. We all have strengths and weaknesses. We all make mistakes. It’s hard to understand your position without objective feedback and a therapist can provide that. What’s more, people are generally more aware now that mental health issues, like physical health issues, are not a sign of personal failing, but something that just happens sometimes. When you can’t solve a problem on your own, the rational thing to do is get help.
You’ll have to reveal something embarrassing.
Many people fear they will have to talk about something they don’t want to talk about. Typically, this is not true. Therapists know that talking about something before you’re ready can be stressful and counterproductive. She might ask you instead to write about something just for yourself or find some other way of approaching the issue so you don’t feel so uncomfortable. As the client, you can decide what you’re comfortable with.
A therapist is just a friend for rent.
Sometimes people feel like they can just talk over their problems with friends or family. While having support from friends and family is valuable, it’s not the same as therapy. For one thing, many of our problems come from how we relate to friends and family and it might take an outside observer to bring this to your attention. Also, therapists have specific expertise that your friends and family typically don’t have. In addition to academic qualifications, an experienced therapist has probably helped hundreds of people with problems similar to yours. She will therefore have much more insight into what works and what doesn’t.