What Therapy Is Really Like Vs. What Is Portrayed In The Media

So the other day I was catching up on one of my favorite TV shows and there was a scene where the characters were taking part in a therapy session. I was happily watching along until I suddenly found that I was yelling at the TV, shouting “NO!”, “This is all wrong!”, “That would never happen!”, “Omg!”, “Why?!”, “UGH!” (All while my poor husband is trying to watch the show, too!) I immediately texted one of my therapist friends, who also watches the show, and asked her if she had seen that episode. She too was mortified by the portrayal of the therapist as well as the therapy session as a whole, even saying “And this is why we get a bad rap..”

Ever wonder what therapy is really like? Learn more about common misconceptions around mental health therapy and how what is portrayed in the media is not always an accurate portrayal! #mentalhealth #therapy #therapist #anxiety #depression
Ever wonder what therapy is really like? Learn more about common misconceptions around mental health therapy and how what is portrayed in the media is not always an accurate portrayal! #mentalhealth #therapy #therapist #anxiety #depression

It was in that moment that I thought to myself, “How many other people are watching this right now, thinking this is actually what therapy is like? And how many of those same people are probably saying to themselves ‘This is why I’ll never go to therapy.'” So, I decided to write a post about what therapy is really like vs. what is portrayed on TV shows or in movies in an attempt to help people better understand the process. Therapy can be such an incredible and healing process, but so many people never start out of fear of what it’ll be like.


We know that the idea of going into a strangers office and disclosing your deepest, darkest secrets and most intimate thoughts is terrifying. We get it. (And, spoiler alert, a lot of us have been in therapy ourselves at one point or another so we actually do understand what the process is like for our clients.) This is why you will never have to just immediately open up and share every little detail about yourself. Your therapist will take time to get to know you, to talk with you, to make you feel comfortable. They will explain the treatment process and how they can be helpful to you or your family. Sure, you may need to explain briefly the general reason you are seeking treatment, but you are not going to be forced into sharing anything more than you are comfortable sharing.

I am often asked, “How long will I need to be in therapy?” and this is a very subjective question with no concrete answer because therapy is different for everyone. Some people are ready to open up and share right away and find they only need services for a brief time. Others feel ready to take the first steps, but are not ready to fully engage right away, and find their therapeutic journey takes a bit longer. There is no right or wrong answer. It is at YOUR pace and YOUR comfortability, and we as therapists know and expect this!


Another very common misconception is that therapists only want your money and don’t care about your treatment. Now, I can’t speak for every single therapist in the world, but what I will say is the vast majority of us are not in it for the money. As with any profession, you may find there are some who may be in the field for questionable reasons, but overall therapists are in the field because they genuinely love helping people. They have a passion for helping people lead happier, healthier lives. They want to make positive changes in the world and be a positive influence to those in their community. In fact, many therapists make significantly less than other professions and work in more intense settings with high stress levels. Just search “Social Work Memes” on google or Pinterest, and you’ll find tons of silly memes about just that!

It is important to note that therapists are people too. With bills to pay and families to support. And let’s not forget student loan debt for all of the schooling we had to endure to be able to obtain our current roles! Also, what makes our field so wonderful is we need to continue our education and training to be able to practice. So, we are consistently paying for trainings, conferences, and seminars so we can better serve our clients. Remember that therapy is a service and your therapist has gone through a lot of training and education to be able to serve you the best way possible.

TV shows and movies will often portray therapists as uptight, “wealthy”, snobs who will say every client needs three sessions a week to get better in an attempt to “steal their money” and keep the clients feeling as though they not getting any better. THIS IS NOT THE CASE! Could someone need three sessions a week? Sure. But is that the norm or the case for everyone? No. Don’t believe everything you see on TV and ask your therapist about their training and experience if you have concerns.


It always amuses me that therapy always looks the same on TV shows or in movies when in reality, therapy looks different for not only every client but looks different for every therapist as well. Every single therapist has their own unique style, experiences, speciality, training, and education. There are tons of different treatment modalities which therapist are trained to use. For example, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a very common evidence based practice/treatment modality, that many therapists are trained to practice in their sessions. However, it is unlikely you will find two therapists who conduct their sessions using this treatment modality the same way. So, it’s not likely what you see in the media is going to be what you experience in real life!


Therapists in TV shows and movies are also sometimes portrayed as being mean, harsh, or straight up rude. Again, I am not speaking for every single therapist, but generally speaking your therapist should be warm and welcoming in an attempt to engage you in treatment. Do some therapists have more abrasive approaches? Sure. To each their own. But if you are in treatment and find you feel uncomfortable with your therapist’s demeanor, approach, or style-CHANGE THERAPISTS! That’s the beauty of therapy! You get to decide who you want to see! Therapy is supposed to be about you and your needs and will not be beneficial if you are feeling uncomfortable with your therapist.

If you are someone who thinks you may want to start therapy, but feel nervous about this next step, THAT IS OK! It’s completely normal and to be expected. Do your research, find a therapist who will work best for YOUR needs, and be very honest and open with your therapist about your concerns prior to starting or during the treatment process. And remember, the media is meant to entertain us and much of what we see in entrainment is fictional! Don’t let a TV show or movie portrayal of therapy dissuade you from seeking treatment if needed!

I would LOVE to know what spoke to you today and encourage you to comment below and share with me!

If you are interested in learning more about my therapy services, check out my website HERE. Seeking mental health services can be daunting and if you are finding my posts resonate with you, it is likely you are feeling ready to take that next step to work on leading a happier, healthier life! I would LOVE to support you in starting this journey and welcome you to send me an email at counselingservices@smsteeves.com.

ALSO! Check out my FREE“How Do I know If Therapy Is Right For Me” printable to start the process of deciding whether or not taking this next step is right for YOU! Just add your name + email address below and you will receive an email with a link to your FREEBIE!


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