As a therapist, I’ve heard this many times. You probably have, too. Maybe you’ve even said it yourself! And sure, you can absolutely choose to believe or not believe in something despite the evidence for or against it! But you’re probably not really saying you don’t believe in it, you’re probably saying:
1. I don't think people can change or I don’t think therapy works (for me).
As people, we are constantly changing whether we realize it or not. Our brain is constantly taking in new information and adapting or solidifying behaviors to accommodate. Yet, we don't know what we don't’ know. A therapist is educated and trained in understanding these processes of the brain and can introduce new ideas, concepts and behaviors that will challenge whatever is been holding you back. People can change. Therapists know this because they get to have an active role in clients make amazing and inspiring transformations in their lives. They are witnesses to human adaptability and change nearly every day.
Now, it’s true that some people start therapy and don’t or won’t change. Some people drop out of therapy when challenged on self-protective thoughts or behaviors. Or they give up when they don’t like the therapist or even feel judged by the therapist. There is a term called attrition which is when someone drops out of treatment before desired results are achieved. There are lots of reasons for early drop-out but let’s save that for another article. The point is, just like a diet not followed, an exercise regimen not implemented, or a budget disregarded, the therapeutic process is going to be more useful if you participate in session, be willing to adapt your behavior and challenge your go-to thinking patterns outside of sessions. It’s. Hard. Work. Yet, change is possible and achievable!
2. I don’t want/like to talk to a stranger about my problems
Fair enough. But consider this: When you talk to a therapist, you are not a stranger, you are a client. The difference? Therapists have taken on an ethical oath to have “unconditional, positive regard” for their clients. Their job is literally to see the best in you, to like you, care for you, and to do all in their power to help and not harm you. They’ve also legally promised to keep almost everything you share confidential (unless your at risk of serious bodily harm). This is not the same relationship you have with a random stranger standing at Walmart. Your therapist cares. Yes, it’s their job, but it’s their job to genuinely care. However, not only does your therapist like you and care about you, they care about you enough tell you when something in your life isn’t serving you well. They have no personal motivation to get you to change your behaviors other than to want you to have success in therapy and in life. They also have the skills and tools to back that up by helping you figure out what things would work better for you in your life. The goal of therapy is to work together to create and implement a plan that will bring you the most peace and fulfillment in your life. Not many strangers do that!
So, believe in therapy or not. Go to therapy or don’t. Make meaningful change in your life or maintain the status quo. We, as therapists, will be there as your guide, coach and cheerleader the moment you are ready to believe in us and make the changes you desire. We know it can work because whether you believe in us or not, we believe in you.