Psychologist busts myths about psychotherapy

Dr. Steven Szykula broke down the myths surrounding psychotherapy | Photo by Ariana Berkemeier
Steven Szykula broke down the myths surrounding psychotherapy at his lecture on Nov. 20. Szykula is a psychology and author. (Photo by Ariana Berkemeier)

Psychologist Steven Szykula opened students’ minds and offered them a different perspective on the world of psychotherapy. The psychology department was able to host a lecture given by Szykula on Nov. 20. Students, faculty and the public were all encouraged to attend the event.

Szykula spoke about psychotherapy and the myths that have become associated with the practice throughout the years. To start off the discussion, Szykula told the audience, “All good psychologists start out with a psychological test.”

Szykula then instructed audience members to turn and look at the person on their left and then on their right. Szykula playfully diagnosed people based off of their reactions when asked to do this task.

Alicia Lee, a psychology major in attendance said, “I am impressed by the department’s organization of this event. It’s nice to see that they care enough to create these opportunities for students.”

A large part of the discussion was focused on breaking down some of the myths that have become associated with psychotherapy throughout the years. One myth that Szykula put to rest was which type of therapy was the most effective.

Szykula told those in attendance that no single type of therapy was more effective than any of the others. Szykula reasoned that since all therapy has the same end result, there is no way to say that one is more effective.

Szykula didn’t hold back any punches; he used part of his time to talk about the bad news relating to psychotherapy.

“Therapists don’t improve over time. They reach their peak about one week after beginning practice,” Szykula said. “They have good results, but the results just never get better.”

Szykula also mentioned the decreased demand for therapy, which has gone down 30 percent in recent years. Though the numbers for psychotherapy are shrinking, the amount of people seeking medication to deal with psychological problems has increased by 75 percent. Depression and anxiety, in Szykula’s opinion, could be just as effectively treated with therapy as they are with medication.

Dr. Amsel, Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology, opened up the floor for discussion for Szykula's lecture (Photo by Ariana Berkemeier)
Eric Amsel, professor and chair of the psychology department, opened up the floor for discussion at Szykula’s lecture. (Photo by Ariana Berkemeier)

Szykula did end on a high note, leaving the audience with all the good news about psychotherapy. Szykula mentioned that therapy works with most people, the therapist’s experience doesn’t matter and  it can be just as effective as medication.

Eric Amsel, professor and chair of the department of psychology said, “Szykula’s lecture was valuable and controversial. He did a wonderful job busting the myths about psychotherapy. It was also important that he addressed problems that are currently relevant to the field of psychotherapy.”

Towards the end of the lecture, Szykula spoke about “getting off the bus” which is a metaphor from his self-help book titled “Get Off the Bus: Depression, Anxiety and Obsession.” Szykula talked about the ways, unhealthy and healthy, that people can end the cycle of anxiety and depression or in other words “get off the bus.”

Szykula spoke about the need for people to be able to focus on what is happening right now instead of the past or future. He mentioned that those who are engaged in the situation right in front of them are less inclined to be “on the bus” of depression or anxiety.

Once the lecture was finished, the audience had the chance to participate in a discussion. Kim Fernandez, a senior majoring in psychology said, “Something that struck me during the discussion was when Theresa Kay spoke about the need to think outside the box to solve difficult problems.”

Kay is a professor of psychology at Weber State.

To finish off his lecture Szykula summed up the night in two words: therapy works.