Do you think I am crazy?
By Aqsa Farooqui
I was talking to a friend of mine a few weeks ago about a problem she was experiencing in her relationship.
She said “I am having a tough time at work and finding it difficult to balance work and family. I am so stressed and unable to meet my deadlines anymore.”
I asked her “Have you thought about talking to someone about it? “
“Yeah I have. That is why I am here. I am talking to you about it.”
“Well, how about talking to a professional, like a therapist?”
“But you are a therapist. I am getting free therapy from you. Ha ha.”
After having heard this response from several friends, I decided to be assertive.
“No, I am not your therapist; I am your friend who happens to be a therapist. It’s different.”
“How is it different? You are a therapist and you are listening to my concerns.”
“It is different because as a friend, I have certain expectations from you too. For example, I would come to you if I was experiencing trouble in my life. A therapist is a professional whose goal is to listen to you in a nonjudgmental manner and provide objective feedback regarding your life and goals. They follow certain ethical guidelines and their job is to listen to your concerns, thoughts, and feelings. They use therapeutic techniques and theories to help you increase your sense of well-being.”
“I would much rather talk to you since you already know me and besides who wants to pay $120 per hour to hear someone talk.”
Exasperated from having this discussion, I decided to write this article and dispel several myths that people have about the process of psychotherapy.
a) If I enter therapy, that must mean I have a mental illness.
Therapy is a process of personal and professional growth. Of course, people who suffer from a mental illness, also benefit from therapy. But people going through a troubled relationship, losing a friend or relative, or feeling anxious, in general, can benefit from talking to someone.
b)Only multimillionaires can afford therapy.
Several counseling centers provide sliding scales ranging from $35-$120 based on your income. You can also receive free short-term counseling at community mental health centers. Heartwork counseling center provides in depth psychotherapy for a sliding scale fee. Check them out at www.htwcc.org.
c)My neighbor/friend/community member will find out that I was fired from my job and my divorce.
Mental health professionals are required by law to keep information confidential except in cases of suicide, harm to someone else or suspected child abuse. If your therapist happens to see you in a public setting, they will not acknowledge you unless they have your consent. So rest assured your identity as a client and what you talk about will be kept private.
d)Medication is a much better solution than therapy.
Medication is helpful for symptom reduction. However, as with all medications, antidepressants and SSRIS have side effects. Also, the effects of medication are short-term and they may be habit-forming. The best combination to combat emotional distress e.g. depression is a combination of medication and therapy.
e)My problems cannot be understood by a stranger who is from a different culture, race, religion, gender etc.
One of the most common fears of clients is that a stranger will not be able to understand how you feel or judge your situation. Of course, I cannot guarantee that you will not have this experience, but with appropriate research, you can find a good fit. If you are not satisfied, you can always find someone else. Most therapists are open and nonjudgmental in listening to your concerns. At the end of the day what really matters that you can have someone who listens to you without giving you advice rather than someone who matches your background.
f)Hollywood is an accurate depiction of the therapeutic relationship.
Therapy is predicted in a glamorized fashion in Hollywood with the therapist eventually developing a romantic/sexual relationship with the client. In reality, the therapist is morally, ethically and legally obligated to not have a relationship with you outside of the therapeutic relationship. Even a friendship is highly discouraged. It is the therapist’s responsibility to protect you and provide an environment where you can discus your concerns without expecting anything from your therapist .Developing a romantic relationship with a client is a breach of trust and is unethical and illegal.
g)Therapists get paid for saying “How do you feel?” and “uh-huh.”
Although therapists often ask open-ended questions, they may use different techniques such as journaling, art, visualization, genograms (family trees) and mindfulness to help you gain a better understanding of yourself.
h)Therapy is only provided by psychologists.
Of course, psychologists have the training and experience to provide therapy. Other mental health professionals include psychiatrists, professional counselors, social workers and psychiatric nurses.
i)If I start therapy, I will never be able to leave.
Some people have asked me how many sessions do they have to attend. Therapy is a voluntary process; you can stop at any time. However it is always important to discuss termination with your therapist. Usually, you can have a conversation with your therapist when you feel that you have met your goals.
j)Talking about my feelings will make me feel worse.
Generally, therapy is beneficial for clients although initially it may be painful to talk about your emotions. However, you can discuss your discomfort with your therapist if you feel overwhelmed. You can proceed at your own pace during the session. Counseling sessions are 45-50 minutes long and are held weekly. But you can work out a different schedule with your therapist that suits your needs.
My hope is that by writing this article I have helped to explain some of the misconceptions about psychotherapy. And the good news is that some of my friends have considered therapy. I notice well that one stray step from the habitual path leads irresistibly into a new direction."- Franz GrillparzerI hope you will think about the option of therapy if you are going through a difficult time. As Franz Grillprazer stated “I notice well that one stray step from the habitual path leads irresistibly into a new direction.”
To learn more about therapy or for a free consultation you can contact me at: (404)312-4950, email@example.com, or visit http://therapist.psychologytoday.com/42783
Aqsa Farooqui has a Bachelor of Arts in Biochemistry and a minor in Psychology from Agnes Scott College where she graduated in 2001. She later enrolled in the Professional Counseling program at Georgia State University, earning a Masters in 2003. She worked for two years before returning to Argosy University in 2005 and plans to return to school in 2007 to complete a Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology.
From August 2001 to April 2005,Aqsa worked with Raksha (a social support network for South Asians) as a part-time case worker and then later in 2003 as a psychotherapist. She provided individual and group therapy to survivors of domestic violence, along with family therapy for issues like parenting, ADHD and truancy. Aqsa has also worked as a psychotherapist intern providing individual and group counseling at the Georgia Institute of Technology Counseling center, providing mental health services to the students of the University.
From March to May 2005, Aqsa was a contract worker and team leader at Hervey Psychotherapy Solutions, an agency that provides intensive in-home counseling, two to three times a week for children with severe mental health issues.
Currently, she is a psychotherapist at Heartwork Counseling Center and provides individual, couple, family and group counseling.
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