It’s not really a therapist’s job to give you advice.
They’re not here to tell you if you should call off your marriage or quit your job. “The real job of therapy is to get to know yourself better and change the way you’re thinking, the way you’re behaving, or the way you’re understanding the world,” says Smith. “The process of therapy is not to give good give advice.”
Sure, they might tell you about strategies to cope with a mental illness like depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, but when it comes to your personal life decisions, they’re more of a facilitator. “Do you really want to come to therapy to give your power away to someone else or do you want to learn to have that power on your own?” says Howes.
They probably see a therapist, too.
“I would never trust a therapist who hadn’t been to therapy,” says Howes. And according to these experts, most psychologists do see their own therapists — maybe not all the time, but at least at some point in their careers. Most graduate psychology programs even require that candidates participate in therapy, says Smith.
Most therapists don’t prescribe medication.
That’s typically the job of a psychiatrist or a primary care provider — not a psychologist or social worker, says Bufka. However, your therapist can coordinate with another provider to help you start or end a medication, if that’s something you’re interested in.
You don’t have to be diagnosed with a mental illness to go to therapy.
One common misconception: “That you have to be ‘crazy’ to go to therapy,” says Howes. “There are a lot of reasons why people go to therapy that have nothing to do with disorders. And when people do go because they have a disorder, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. You’re going to get help and speak to an expert just like you would seeking help for any other medical condition.”
It’s usually this in between area — when you’re struggling but not completely debilitated — that people hesitate to go to therapy because they feel like they don’t need it. “But if you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed or not able to function as you’d like to, that’s a sign you do need to talk to somebody,” says Bufka.