An Indian therapist sits in a chair with a notebook on her lap, listening to a young woman client.
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What Is Therapy? Understanding Fact & Unlearning Fiction

The word ‘therapy’ continues to evoke a flurry of emotions, numerous misconceptions, and unanswered questions.

  • “I do not need therapy; I can manage my issues by myself.”
  • “I am not a mentally ill person, so why should I seek therapy?”
  • “Therapy is just a pricey venting out session.”

Have you ever heard someone say these sentences out loud to you, or you have had these thoughts yourself? If yes, then you are not alone!  Since people are just becoming aware of mental health in India, it is important to comprehend what therapy means and why it can be important to you.


What is therapy?

The American Psychological Association defines therapy as:

“… the informed and intentional application of clinical methods and interpersonal stances derived from established psychological principles to assist people to modify their behaviors, cognitions, emotions, and/or other personal characteristics in directions that the participants deem desirable.”

Let’s decode what this really means.


  1. While most forms of therapy do involve having a conversation, it is much more than merely “talking” or “venting out.” A therapist uses established principles from psychology that have been studied and proven to work. In other words, therapy is grounded in hard science.
  2. Therapy is a deliberate process to improve your emotional and mental well-being. Therefore, it requires effort and commitment from you. It works, but it’s not a quick fix.
  3. You define your own “goals” from therapy that are based on your unique life context. The role of the therapist is to help you achieve these goals via therapy.
  4. Therapy involves understanding and modifying your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. This is because irrational thoughts and behaviors are often at the core of your psychological symptoms and distress.

To put it simply, the goal of therapy is to alleviate your immediate distressing symptoms first and then equip you with a set of skills that you can apply to prevent these symptoms from recurring in the future.


What therapy is not

There are numerous misconceptions and myths about therapy. Let’s consider a few common ones here.

Therapy is not:

  • only for people diagnosed with a serious psychological condition. In fact, anyone who is experiencing signs of distress, or simply wants to make a positive difference in their emotional well-being, can benefit from therapy.
  • the same as venting out to family, friends, and colleagues.
  • a sign of vulnerability and weakness. It’s perfectly all right to seek support so you can live a healthier and happier life
  • always a long-term treatment that runs into months or even years. How long therapy lasts depends on your needs and underlying concerns.
  • forced; it is completely your choice to take it up or not.

When should you consider therapy?

Anyone can benefit from therapy. However, you should seek support from a therapist if you are experiencing signs of psychological distress that don’t seem to go away.

Here are some of the common signs and symptoms:

  • You feel low, demotivated, angry, confused, and foggy headed
  • You are seeing changes or disruptions in sleep or appetite
  • You have difficulty facing and regulating your emotions and thoughts
  • Negative overthinking takes up a huge chunk of your day and you feel mentally paralyzed
  • Important areas of your life such as work and close relationships are affected
  • You feel hopeless and/or worthless
  • People around you are noticing changes in your behavior
  • You are not happy and content with your current life or relationships
  • You are using alcohol or other addictive substances to cope
  • You have experienced physical or sexual abuse

However,  you do not have to wait for the symptoms above to become overwhelming or severe before you explore therapy. In fact, therapy is often most effective when you reach out for support early.


We live in a world where we are constantly exposed to events and triggers that result in distress and worry. Unemployment, the urge to meet certain milestones, peer pressure, lack of support, loneliness, relational conflicts, loss of a loved one, and so much more.


While talking about our troubles and further exploring our emotions and thoughts all by ourselves certainly helps, it may not always be enough. This is where structured support via therapy is useful!


There are so many misconceptions about mental and emotional health that it is natural to feel apprehensive before taking up therapy.


But look at it this way: If you have a problem with your vision, it would be natural to see an ophthalmologist or an eye doctor and get your eyes checked. It is the same for therapy when the problem is psychological.


Mental health is as important as physical health, maybe more. It all starts in the mind first and then manifests into our physical being.


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