We are NOT superheroes!
Written by Dr Ea Stewart.
There is a reason you didn’t see a new psychologist character added to the latest Avengers movie (FYI, no spoilers here!) – it turns out psychologists do not have superpowers!
Whenever I meet someone for the first time and I’m asked: “What do you do?” I immediately consider giving some vague response so the answer “psychologist” doesn’t lead to the usual concerned look and panic… but instead, I go with the truth: “I’m a psychologist.” And yes the expected concerned response… “So, are you reading my mind right now?” Although we can do some pretty spectacular things (in my opinion anyway), we certainly do not have any kind of superpowers… No, we cannot read minds. No, we do not have magical persuasive powers. No, we are not lie detectors. You know what else…we won’t even make you lie down on a sofa (although you can if you want).
Because these misconceptions happen so often, I thought I would take the time and dispel a few other myths about psychologists;
MYTH: Only “crazy” people see psychologists
TRUTH: People often use the word “crazy” incorrectly in reference to all mental health issues. If I am being honest, I wouldn’t even know what crazy looks like, just like you can’t tell who is, or isn’t, seeing a psychologist just by looking at them. That person sitting beside you on the train on the way to work, or the receptionist you say hi to in the morning, or the colleague you have lunch with every day – they could all be seeing psychologists and you wouldn’t even know. Anyone can see a psychologist, and, no, it doesn’t make you crazy.
MYTH: You must have a disorder or diagnosis to see a psychologist
TRUTH: A psychologist can help with treatment for symptoms, stress, difficulties, and other life problems that do not necessarily meet criteria for a diagnosis of a specific mental health condition/disorder. In fact, sometimes seeing a psychologist at an early point can prevent development of a disorder. A large portion of people who are treated by psychologists present with every day, regular life issues that are experienced by most people. It is simply a way to get support from someone unbiased and non-judgemental to help you through difficult times.
MYTH: Psychologists can read minds
TRUTH: Don’t worry – you’re all safe! Psychologists CANNOT read minds. They simply ask questions in a way that helps them to infer what is going on and then discuss the outcome accordingly. Would it be useful to be able to read minds…I’m not so sure!
MYTH: Psychologists will tell you what you must do
TRUTH: No, you will not be going to a dictator of any kind. A psychologist will not TELL YOU what to do, but rather guide you through problem-solving, brainstorming, the chance to see things from different perspectives, working through all the possible solutions, and getting to an answer that makes sense to you.
MYTH: Psychologists will always want to know every single thing about your childhood
TRUTH: When people are overloaded by stress, dealing with recent grief, trying to manage big life transitions, etc. there may be no need to delve into a person’s history, and instead dealing with the present moment is the most important thing. Although some issues that people bring to a psychologist may require exploration of the person’s childhood and other historical factors, this is definitely not always the case. It is important to remember that sessions will be guided by you – if you feel the need to talk about your past, then there may be a reason for further exploration.