Therapy can assist anyone who is willing to take the very brave steps of acknowledging their difficulties, of placing their trust in a mental health professional, and of actively participating in the process of therapy. Just like for a physical health problem, early intervention for a mental health problem can prevent more severe difficulties in the future. Many people wait years before seeking help and only a small percentage ever see a mental health professional.
Part of the reluctance to seek professional help is due to misconceptions about psychologists and psychological treatment. So let’s clear them up:
Psychologists just listen while you lay on a couch and talk: Some psychologists do practice the Freudian method of ‘talking therapy’ called psychoanalysis. This is the treatment that is most commonly portrayed in the media as a client laying on a couch talking about their past and the therapist listening and making interpretations based on their expertise of the unconscious processes of the mind. In reality, most psychologists practice more modern approaches to therapy that focus on present problems and future outcomes, where the client and therapist are regarded as equals, and that require more active involvement by both parties in the change process.
Psychologists are perfect and behave perfectly all the time: The truth is, psychologists are imperfect humans like everyone else. Just because we know the skills needed in situations to achieve positive outcomes does not mean that we always use them (my husband can attest to that)! Psychologists are not going to help you to be perfect, this is an unachievable and, dare I say, an undesirable outcome. The aim is to progress toward your personal goals and when you make mistakes and have failures along the way, to accept them, learn from them, cope with them, and take responsibility for them.
Psychologists will “fix you”: Psychologists do not have special powers nor are they in charge of making your life better. What they do have is specialist knowledge and skills that can guide you to make the changes that you want in your life, whether they are to feel better, socialise more, communicate more effectively, and/or discontinue unhelpful or destructive behaviours. In other words, psychologists give people hope that they can have a better life by holding up a light so they can see the path. Sometimes the light is a candle, sometimes a flashlight, and sometimes it's high beams—but ultimately, it is you that takes those steps.
So if you need some help getting your life back on track, and you’re interested in taking an active role in becoming the best imperfect human being you can be—then take one of the bravest steps towards this goal—make an appointment with a psychologist.