Psychotherapy: The Myths and the Facts

Psychotherapy, or "talk therapy," is a widely used and often highly effective treatment for depression, particularly for people with mild to moderate depression. If you're suffering from severe depression, your physician may recommend psychotherapy along with antidepressant medications.

Despite increasing acceptance of psychotherapy, there are still myths and misconceptions surrounding it.

Myth: Psychotherapy will last forever.

Hollywood has done a good job of reinforcing the cliché of long-term, on-going psychoanalysis. While some people still do undergo extensive therapy, most psychotherapy is short-term, lasting only a few weeks or months. Patients with more severe mental health conditions may need to remain in therapy longer.

The length of therapy depends on many factors, including the severity of symptoms, how long they've persisted, their level of disruption, and how quickly you progress. You should discuss duration of treatment with your therapist when you begin working together.

Myth: I can solve my own problems by talking with friends and family.

Friends and family can be invaluable when you need a sympathetic ear. However, we all have blind spots when it comes to our own shortcomings. Psychotherapy provides a professional, outside perspective that helps you gain insight into the things that make you depressed. Psychotherapists also arm you with techniques and strategies for dealing with challenges once therapy ends.

Myth: All psychotherapy is the same; it's vague and fuzzy.

Psychotherapist Marina Papirova, Ph.D. says psychotherapy is a very specific process, with several distinct characteristics.

  • It's systematic.
  • It's aimed at change.
  • It involves a professional relationship.

According Papirova, there are about 400 different systems of psychotherapy. However, the most common are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps you change the ways you think and behave that may contribute to your depression, and interpersonal therapy (IPT), which helps you understand and work through troubled personal relationships.

Myth: I'm not crazy. I don't need psychotherapy.

According to, psychotherapy is "for people who have enough self awareness to realize they need a helping hand, and want to learn tools and techniques to become more self-confident and emotionally balanced." There's nothing crazy about that! says at least 33 percent of American adults experience difficulties in which they need professional help.

Finding a therapist you're comfortable with is critical to getting the most out of psychotherapy. If you believe you'd benefit from psychotherapy, discuss these—and any other concerns you may have-with your physician or therapist.


National Institute of Mental Health. "Psychotherapies." Web. 16 August 2010.

Mayo Clinic. "Psychotherapy." Web. 1 September 2010. "Finding a Therapist Who Can Help you Heal." Web. January 2012. "Psychotherapy: Myths and Reality." Web.