8 Biggest Misconceptions About Psychotherapy


When it comes to psychotherapy, are you a “no, never” person? Do you feel that your problems are not serious enough to require therapy? Do you think seeking help is weak or indulgent? Is a therapist simply a paid friend? If you answer yes to any of these questions, you may be carrying some misconceptions about what psychotherapy is, who it is designed to help, and what kind of problems it can help address. Here are some of the biggest misconceptions about psychotherapy. Don’t let them stand in the way of your own well-being.


Mental health experts report that often the clients they see in therapy are mentally healthier than those who fear the stigma of seeking help for counseling. Click To Tweet

8 Biggest Misconceptions About Psychotherapy

1. Therapy Is Only for Serious Problems

Therapy indeed can critically and successfully address a number of serious mental health issues, but that’s not all. Psychotherapy benefits all types of people seeking solutions for a wide range of everyday life challenges, helping to improve quality of life, enhance self-esteem, and foster greater overall well-being.

Of course, therapy helps to address mental crises, tragic losses, and trauma—as well as common mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, attention deficit disorder (ADD/ADHD), and other mental health disorders.

However, you may be surprised to learn the broad range of issues therapy can also help.

For instance, at Amen Clinics, the top reason people seek psychotherapy is to help in dealing with people in their lives who won’t go to therapy!

Feelings of loss are hard to process on one’s own. Psychotherapy can be particularly supportive to people experiencing loss and grief—whether that’s the end of a relationship, a divorce, the loss of a loved one, or a life-changing medical issue.

Therapy is immensely practical for problem-solving too. For example, it can help individuals to address unhealthy patterns in relationships, reduce negative self-talk, improve self-esteem, acquire better strategies for handling stress, be better parents, reach life goals, or get needed support during times of transition. The bottom line is nothing horrible has to happen for someone to seek therapy to feel better.

2. A Couple of Therapy Sessions Will Fix the Issue

With the exception of one-session exposure therapy, which can be effective in helping to alleviate specific phobias, therapy is a process that generally takes a dozen or more sessions to be effective. There is no quick “fix” for lasting change. That’s the good news and the bad news. Therapy focuses on root causes and that takes time.

The American Psychological Association (APA) reports that certain types of psychotherapy take a moderate duration (12 to 16 weekly sessions of roughly 50 min each) to show clinically significant improvements. About 50% of people who undergo 15-20 sessions report meaningful improvement. However, for people with co-occurring conditions and more complex issues, longer treatment (12-18 months) may be needed.

The length of your therapy is something you decide with your therapist. While some people come for a few months to work on a particular issue, others may stay in therapy for extended periods to continue to learn and grow in a therapeutic setting, even after the initial problem that motivated them to start therapy has been addressed.  Some types of psychotherapy, such as psychoanalysis, are designed for a prolonged process in order to explore unconscious drivers of behavior and family patterns.

3. People Who Go to Therapy Are Weak and Unstable

For some people, especially those who value being “strong” and self-sufficient, going to therapy is seen as a failure. They judge people who need therapy as weak and unable to manage their problems—or worse, they think they are crazy.

In reality, the opposite is true. Mental health experts report that often the clients they see in therapy are mentally healthier than those who fear the stigma of seeking help for counseling! Those who seek therapy are resourceful and far from weak. Undergoing the transformative therapeutic process requires strength, honesty, humility, and courage.

Trusting a mental health professional, having the willingness to take a hard look at your thoughts and behaviors, and being prepared to be challenged in a safe environment to make adjustments that may improve your life, signals strength, intelligence, and sanity.

Taking care of one’s mental health is good for your overall health, too. The mind-body connection is now well accepted by western medicine. The APA reports that emotional problems can show up as physical symptoms and vice-versa.

4. All Psychotherapy Is the Same

Psychotherapy, also called “talk” therapy or just therapy, is not one thing. There are many types of psychotherapy, and it may take a few tries to find a therapist who uses the methods that work for you.

For example, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps people notice and change negative, unhelpful (and untrue!) thoughts, as well as behavior. Since distressing thoughts tend to increase anxiety and depression, helping to quell them is of great therapeutic benefit.  On the other hand, interpersonal therapy (IPT), much like it sounds, focuses on improving interpersonal relationships and developing social skills as a way to decrease distress.

Other forms of psychotherapy include dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), psychoanalytic therapy, and humanistic therapy. DBT is particularly beneficial to people who hold rigid ideas by helping them to see other perspectives. Psychoanalytic therapy helps to uncover unconscious thoughts that may be affecting current behaviors, emotions, and perceptions. Humanistic therapy focuses on how you perceive yourself and your world, and how these views may affect your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

A skilled therapist may incorporate one or more of these types of psychotherapy, depending on the needs of the individual. Additionally, there are innovative types of therapy that can be useful with specific issues such as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy for symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or hypnosis, which can help people to feel calm and relaxed.

5. A Therapist Is a Paid Friend

It is true that a therapist should be someone you trust, and hopefully, someone whose company you enjoy—which may make them feel like a friend, but they are quite different.

A psychotherapist (psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor, or social worker) is a professional who has undergone rigorous clinical training and testing. They are bound by a strict code of ethics, which requires them to keep your best interests the priority.

Unlike a friendship, your relationship with your therapist is not a two-way street. In fact, your therapist will not disclose very much information about themselves. And when they do share anything personal, it will likely be shared to help your growth. Their aim is to keep the focus on you and your goals.

You can discuss issues with a therapist that may not be suited for a friend to hear, as a therapist is trained to listen to your deepest concerns and skillfully detect unhelpful thoughts and patterns. They provide undivided attention, support, and a more objective perspective of your situation. They use science-based techniques to help you to make healthier choices in your life.

While a friend may offer a good ear, a skilled therapist can help you to transform your life—and they do. Psychotherapy has been shown to help roughly three-quarters of the people who try it.

6. You’ll Lie on a Couch and Talk to Therapist Who Takes Notes

We’ve all seen it in movies and television: A therapist sits quietly and without emotion, listening and taking notes while the client lies on a couch staring up at the ceiling and talking.

This is not therapy. Your therapist may have a couch, but you will not be lying on it!

More likely you will face each other while you sit on a couch, and they sit in a chair with no obstructions between you—kind of like a comfortable living room setup.

Psychotherapy is a relationship and a dialogue. The seating arrangement and distance between a professional and a client are designed to facilitate open communication. A skilled therapist may even ask if the distance is comfortable for a client, and they rarely take notes during a session. They are highly present and attentive.

7. Therapy Is for Women Only

It is true that women are more likely to seek therapy, and it is likely because there’s less stigma around women seeking help. Indeed, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), reports that of the 20% of U.S. adults experiencing mental illness in 2019, about 50% of the women received mental health care, while only around 37 % of men did.

Unfortunately, research indicates that many men still associate seeking help for a psychological or emotional problem with shame and weakness. However, men can benefit greatly from therapy—especially because they have fewer places to go for emotional support.

According to Statista, an estimated 12.1 % of U.S. men received mental health treatment or counseling in 2021 (and 21.4 % of women). While fewer men seek therapy, it can and does very much help men who are brave enough to try it!

8. Not Many People Go to Therapy

While most of us will happily share if we are working with a professional for other aspects of health (such as a trainer, physical therapist, or body worker), we only tell a trusted few, if anyone, that we go to therapy. Even though there’s much less stigma around therapy today, people are still reluctant to tell people they go, which may give a false impression that few people work with a therapist.

Yet, data reveals that millions of people do. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a national survey, found that 9.5% of American adults worked with a therapist or counselor in 2019. That’s nearly 33 million people! What’s more, the survey was pre-pandemic. The number of people seeking therapy today is likely much higher.

Mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.


  1. When I was in graduate school I went to a psychologist who specialized in helping autistic people navigate the politics of society. She coordinated with my dissertation supervisor to shield me from the dirty politics in many graduate schools by which people get washed out no matter their academic performance. She also helped me identify dangerous people who display behaviors of axis 2 personality disorders which I can look up in the DSM and how to keep the out of my life so they can't do me the kind of harm they try to do.
    Therapy includes education in how to look out for oneself.

    Comment by Robert Vincelette — April 19, 2023 @ 3:36 AM

  2. Good timing for this article as myself and family members are engaged in or planning to engage in therapy. One for grief , tragic loss of a son and me for life changing event, retirement! If you had clinics in Canada I would attend. I need in person contact. 😊

    Comment by Christine Lemieux — April 19, 2023 @ 6:09 AM

  3. Excellent update & review of some of the major approaches found involved in “therapy”

    Comment by R.J.Nielsen — April 19, 2023 @ 2:11 PM

  4. I visited psychologists 5 times…
    One of the specialists was a neuropsychologist, and it was a very difficult experience….
    I was put under categorical conditions, labeled, even insulted with obscene words! So, I have great doubts about the qualifications of such specialists – first of all… And secondly, it is very expensive, unfortunately. So I am fighting on my own, and although very slowly, I am getting results.
    I have completed the Happiness Challenge, bought a new book and will organize a new Challenge for myself, but for a year! I analyze a lot, listen to a psychologist who bases his words on scientific research.
    І.. I noticed that in my case, my outlook, mood, thoughts, feelings and decisions are very much dependent on the physical and chemical state of my body. The connection is so obvious that my mind refuses to absorb this information.
    For example, I have OCD. I got sick as if in one moment. Of course, my brain's strength reserves were gradually decreasing due to certain factors, but OCD manifested itself overnight. And it has already stolen 13 years of my life. And this is some kind of injustice! I got sick quickly, like a storm out of the blue, and it took a long time and a lot of money to treat… Okay, but I don't have any money, and what should I do in this situation?
    Here's what to do.
    At first, I could not accept reality for years and only suffered.
    But with time and attempts to help myself, the picture became clearer.
    I took a brain type test, and after researching what kind of supplements I needed, I bought them. And it turned out that my OCD had weakened. Moreover, when I took them for the second time, I was simultaneously working on my posture, neck static, and skull sinuses. And for the first time in many years, I washed the toilet at home, and after that I didn't run to bathe or change my clothes.
    So I believe in Dr. Amen's statement:
    Improve your brain and your mind will follow.

    Comment by Тіна — May 7, 2023 @ 10:35 PM

  5. wonderful topic!

    Comment by Doug Morris — December 1, 2023 @ 6:04 PM

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