Relationship advice dispensed by family and friends is understandably framed with popular wisdom. That’s why people have therapists: sage professionals armed with research, data, and experience in resolving life’s quandaries. There’s just one hitch. Therapists are human too.
Many marriage and family therapists, it seems, subscribe to the same mistaken beliefs about relationships that vex their clients. Researchers at the California School of Professional Psychology recently surveyed 223 therapists, reports Psychotherapy Networker (May-June 2009). Presented with 21 myths about marriage, they bought into an average of seven erroneous statements. Among the falsehoods: High-conflict couples are more likely to split; single women are at less risk for violence than married women; men reap greater benefits from being hitched than women do.
Some mental health professionals argue that the survey myths reflect issues too multifaceted to format into true or false questions. Plus no one has demonstrated a link between therapists’ beliefs and poor therapy results, the researchers carefully note. People seek therapy in their most vulnerable moments, though, and professional advice inevitably weighs more than maxims doled out over coffee or pints. As a result of the survey, therapists worth their salt are no doubt hitting the books.