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Debunking 7 Common Misconceptions About Therapy

January 10, 2024
35 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
January 10, 2024
35 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
January 10, 2024
35 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
January 10, 2024
35 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Reframe Content Team
January 10, 2024
35 min read

From the nodding, light-lipped therapists of old Hollywood films to the overly involved and boundary-breaking counselors in modern TV dramas, pop culture has painted a colorful, albeit often misleading, picture of therapy. Remember Tony Soprano’s tense therapy sessions or the emotionally intense take on the therapist-client relationship in "Good Will Hunting"? While these scenes make for compelling TV, they've also helped spin a web of myths around therapy that many of us have come to accept as fact.

Despite therapy’s growing social acceptance in recent years, misconceptions still cast shadows over its real benefits. Let's turn on the spotlight and bust seven myths about therapy and see how it can be a useful ally in our journeys with alcohol — and beyond!

Myth #1: “Therapy Is for 'Crazy' People”

The notion that therapy is reserved exclusively for those people who are "crazy" or have severe mental issues is not only outdated but downright incorrect. Let's set the record straight!

Therapy offers a spectrum of benefits catering to a wide range of needs. While it's true that therapy can provide support for severe mental health conditions like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, it's also an invaluable resource for addressing everyday concerns, such as workplace challenges, relationship conflicts, grief, or transitional phases in life like moving to a new city or starting a new job. Here are just a few of the ways therapy can improve our lives:

  • Self-discovery. Therapy can help us recognize the patterns, behaviors, and emotions that shape our life.
  • Improved relationships. Relationships flourish when we become better communicators and listeners.
  • Stress reduction. Life's a whirlwind, isn't it? Therapy provides tools and techniques to manage and reduce the stress that comes with it.
  • Better coping mechanisms. Therapy helps us learn healthier ways to deal with challenges and replace negative habits with positive coping strategies tailored for us.
  • Increased well-being. Therapy often leads to improved mood, increased feelings of self-worth, and a better outlook on life.
  • Problem-solving skills. With therapy, we can tackle issues head-on and develop strategies to address challenges.
  • Emotional regulation. Therapy can help us get a grip on those roller-coaster emotions and learn to manage our feelings in a balanced way.
  • Healing from trauma. Past events can linger — therapy offers a safe space to process and heal from past traumas and experiences.
  • Setting boundaries. We can learn how to create healthy boundaries in relationships and make sure we’re taking care of ourselves.
  • Achieving goals. Therapy can help us set and achieve personal and professional goals.

Whether we’re facing big challenges or just need a mental health tune up, therapy offers tools and insights to help navigate the road ahead. It's like a scheduled appointment for self-reflection, personal growth, and self-care!

Therapy and the Alcohol Journey

Therapy can also be a game-changer for those of us looking to address our relationship with alcohol. It provides an environment to understand the roots of our drinking habits, cope with withdrawal symptoms, and learn strategies to navigate cravings and maintain sobriety.

Plus, quitting or reducing alcohol isn't just about abstaining. It's about building a life in which alcohol doesn't hold a central role. Therapy aids in this holistic transformation, helping us find alternative sources of joy, relaxation, and coping.

Myth #2: “Talking Won’t Help”

We've all had those moments: a problem weighs heavily on our minds, and someone suggests, "Why not talk to someone about it?" and our immediate reaction is, "Talking won't change anything." 

Think again! For one thing, talking does more than just let off steam. Engaging in a therapeutic dialogue helps restructure and reframe negative thought patterns. A practice known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is evidence-based and focuses on changing maladaptive thinking patterns, leading to changes in feelings and behavior.

The power of therapeutic dialogue is multifaceted:

  • Unpacking thoughts. Ever tried solving a jigsaw puzzle? Talking in therapy is similar. It helps piece together scattered thoughts, making the picture clearer.
  • Reframing perspectives. Through conversation, therapists help us view challenges from different angles, often leading to unexpected solutions or ways of coping.
  • Validating feelings. Sharing concerns and having someone validate them can be a relief. It’s a reminder that your feelings matter.
  • Building coping skills. Talking can help identify triggers and reactions. Over time, this awareness allows us to develop better coping strategies.

Beyond Words: Non-Talk-Based Therapies

Moreover, not all therapy is about talking in the first place! While talking is a key component of many therapeutic approaches, there are plenty of other ways to go these days: 

  • Art therapy. Art therapy allows us to express ourselves creatively. It's not about creating a masterpiece; it’s about the process and what emotions and thoughts emerge.
  • Music therapy. Whether it’s playing an instrument, listening, or even dancing, music therapy offers a rhythmic path to healing and self-expression.
  • Animal-assisted therapy. For all the animal lovers out there, this therapy involves animals (like dogs or horses) to promote emotional and mental well-being. Furry friends often have a way of melting away stress!
  • Movement or dance therapy. Put on those dancing shoes (or go barefoot)! Through movement and dance, individuals can express emotions and release pent-up tension.

In the grand scheme of things, therapy is a toolbox. Some tools involve conversation, while others might tap into the arts, movement, or our love for animals. There's something for everyone! 

Speaking About the Alcohol Journey

The age-old skepticism of "talking won't help" often rears its head when dealing with habits or addictions. But talking can be transformative:

  • Unpacking triggers. By talking it out, we can connect the dots and find clarity on what drives our drinking habits. Is it stress, peer pressure, or perhaps emotional voids? Dialogue helps unearth these triggers and identify patterns.
  • Accountability. Speaking a goal out loud — whether it's your goal to cut back or quit alcohol, earn a promotion, or buy a house — can instill a sense of accountability. Your therapist or support group becomes a part of your journey, cheering you on.

Moreover, as we saw earlier, therapy isn’t just about talking. Beyond words, other therapeutic interventions can be equally effective in our alcohol journeys, especially when traditional talk therapy feels daunting or insufficient.

  • Art therapy. Visualizing and expressing our relationship with alcohol through art can offer deep insights and provide an avenue to process emotions tied to drinking.
  • Music therapy. Creating playlists that evoke empowerment or using music to reflect on our relationship with alcohol can be therapeutic.
  • Animal-assisted therapy. Interacting with animals reduces stress and provides emotional comfort, especially during challenging phases like withdrawal or moments of temptation.
  • Movement or dance therapy. Movement can help release emotions, reduce cravings, and create a positive mental space.

Myth #3: “Therapy Takes Forever”

When considering therapy, the ticking clock often looms large. "Will I be in therapy forever?" is a question many have posed before taking the plunge. However, not every therapy journey looks like a marathon! Some people need just a few sessions, while others benefit from longer durations. The duration is tailored according to individual needs and goals. Research shows that many people experience symptom relief in as few as 8-10 therapy sessions!

So, let's unravel the myth that therapy is a never-ending story and help set your mind at ease:

  • Tailored to you. Just as every person is unique, so is their journey in therapy. It's crafted around individual needs, emotions, and goals.
  • Various models and durations. Some therapy models, like brief solution-focused therapy, are designed for short-term engagements. Others might be longer-term, addressing deep-seated issues or patterns. It really depends on what you're looking to achieve.
  • Setting clear objectives. Walking into therapy with a specific goal, such as managing stress or processing a recent life event, can lead to a more concise timeline. 
  • Frequency of sessions. Some people benefit from weekly sessions, while others might opt for bi-weekly or monthly check-ins as they progress. This pacing affects the perceived duration of therapy.
  • Evolving goals. It's not uncommon for the focus of therapy to shift over time. You might start for one reason and discover another aspect of yourself you want to explore. This evolution is a natural part of personal growth.

Therapy provides tools, insights, and coping mechanisms that last far beyond the actual sessions. The time spent in therapy often leads to a lifelong skill set, helping us face future challenges with resilience.

In the grand scheme of things, therapy is less about counting minutes and more about making each moment count. Whatever your timeline, the insights and growth gained are invaluable. And when it comes to understanding ourselves, isn’t it worth taking the time?

The Alcohol Journey

Many therapists work with a goal-oriented approach, especially with tangible objectives like cutting back on alcohol. With clear milestones in sight, it's easier to gauge the duration:

  • Initial exploration. The early stages of therapy often involve understanding our relationship with alcohol. Why the drink? What patterns emerge? This foundational work can be swift, or it might take a little more time, depending on personal histories.
  • Skills and strategies. Once the foundation is set, the next phase typically focuses on equipping us with strategies to reduce or quit alcohol by recognizing our triggers, developing coping mechanisms, or finding healthier alternatives to drinking.
  • Maintenance mode. Once someone has reduced their alcohol intake or quit, therapy might shift to maintaining this new status quo. This is all about reinforcing positive habits and ensuring that old patterns don't creep back in.

Even after formal sessions might have concluded, the lessons learned, especially around alcohol management, stay with us. It's a toolkit we carry forward!

Myth #4: Only Weak People Go to Therapy

The notion that "only weak people go to therapy" has been floating around for a while, but it’s high time we bust this myth wide open. Part of the problem might have to do with cultural baggage: many cultures valorize the stoic, "suffer in silence" archetype, giving rise to the belief that expressing vulnerabilities or seeking help is a sign of weakness.

However, seeking help is actually a sign of strength! Recognizing that we need help and actively pursuing it shows resilience, self-awareness, and courage. Proactively seeking therapy indicates a desire to take charge of our life and steer it in a positive direction. Here’s how we can shift the perspective:

  • Redefining strength. True strength lies in recognizing when we need support and taking steps to get it. It's about putting well-being above societal expectations and prioritizing mental health.
  • Focus on building resilience. Therapy offers a space to develop resilience and coping strategies. Over time, we find we’re better equipped to handle life’s ups and downs, emerging stronger than ever.
  • Celebrate the journey. Instead of mislabeling those who attend therapy, let's celebrate their bravery. Every step toward understanding ourselves better is a step toward a fuller, richer life.

Strength and the Alcohol Journey

If you wanted to climb a mountain, would you consider it weak to hire a guide? Probably not. The same goes for navigating the challenging path of reducing or quitting alcohol. 

Recognizing and admitting that our relationship with alcohol might be getting unhealthy is a testament to self-awareness. Here’s why therapy is a power move on this path:

  • Guided navigation. Just as we’d trust a map on a tricky trail, therapy provides insights, tools, and coping mechanisms to navigate the alcohol journey. 
  • Understanding triggers. A significant part of the alcohol journey is understanding what drives us towards that next drink. Therapy helps us identify and manage our triggers, transforming vulnerability into empowerment.
  • Building resilience. The journey of cutting back or quitting alcohol isn’t linear. Therapy fosters resilience, equipping us to bounce back from setbacks or slip ups.
  • Shifting perspectives. Opting for therapy during an alcohol cutback or quitting journey is about proactive problem-solving. It’s a decision to gather resources, learn, and be better prepared — all hallmarks of strength.
  • Celebrating milestones. Every day without alcohol — or even every conscious decision to drink less — is a victory. These moments, amplified with the insights from therapy, can be celebrated as markers of strength.
  • Inspiring others. By sharing personal experiences, including the ways we’ve benefitted from therapy, we can inspire others to embark on their own paths and seek support without hesitation.

In the end, opting for therapy while navigating the complexities of alcohol reduction or cessation is like choosing to drive with a GPS. It’s a smart, strategic, and strong choice, increasing your odds of getting where you want to go.

Myth #5: Therapists Only Sit and Nod

While nodding might be a part of the package (it’s a sign of active listening), therapists play a more proactive role. There's so much more going on! Therapists use various techniques, provide feedback, challenge distortions, and offer coping strategies:

  • More than passive listeners. While active listening is a crucial part of their role, therapists do far more than just absorb and reflect your words. They're trained professionals, equipped to analyze, guide, intervene, and support.
  • The notepad mystique. Ever wonder what's in that notepad? Therapists jot down observations, patterns, and important points to bring up later, staying attentive and proactive during your sessions.
  • Skillful interventions. Therapists use techniques tailored to our needs, ranging from cognitive-behavioral strategies to mindfulness exercises. These interventions help challenge and modify unhelpful patterns of thinking or behavior.
  • Probing and prompting. Far from passive, therapists often ask insightful questions, encouraging us to delve deeper into our emotions or reflect on certain experiences.
  • Feedback and reflection. Sessions often include feedback on observed behaviors, emotions, or patterns, helping us gain a clearer understanding of ourselves.
  • Connection to resources. If additional support or services are needed, therapists can provide referrals and connect us to relevant resources.

In a nutshell, while a nod might be part of the package, therapists wear multiple hats: listener, guide, educator, coach, and more. They're there to foster understanding, growth, and positive change.

Navigating the Alcohol Journey With a Dynamic Ally

Therapists can also play an active role in our alcohol journeys:

  • Unearthing the why. Therapists don't just listen — they actively help us uncover the underlying reasons behind our relationship with alcohol through probing questions and reflections.
  • Educating about alcohol. Beyond being a listening ear, therapists serve as educators. They provide insights into the effects of alcohol on the brain, body, and emotions, arming us with knowledge that can empower our journey.
  • Goal setting and progress tracking. Progress isn't just about counting days without alcohol. Therapists help set tangible, meaningful goals and help us celebrate milestones, no matter how small.
  • Social pressures. With societal norms often emphasizing alcohol's role in celebrations or commiseration, therapists offer tools and techniques to handle social situations without feeling left out or pressured.
  • Building a support network. Therapists can actively connect us to support groups, workshops, or other resources that can bolster their alcohol reduction or quitting journey.
  • Reframing the narrative. One of the most active roles therapists play is helping us reframe the narrative around alcohol. Instead of viewing it as a crutch or reward, they guide us in seeing life's pleasures and coping with challenges without alcohol's haze.
  • Celebrate the wins. Therapists actively acknowledge our milestones, fostering a positive and motivating environment.
  • Future-forward focus. While therapists certainly help process our past traumas or triggers, they're also keenly focused on our future — helping us build skills, strategies, and resilience for a healthier tomorrow.

All in all, therapists are active partners, equipped and eager to guide, support, and empower. They're co-navigators on our journeys, ensuring we have the resources and resolve to reach our desired destination. 

Myth #6: Therapy Is Too Expensive

One common roadblock people encounter when considering therapy is the cost. Isn't it just cheaper to chat with a friend? While friends are priceless, therapy offers a unique professional support system. Let’s debunk the misconception that therapy is prohibitively expensive and explore how to make it more accessible.

  • Long-term value. Sure, therapy can sometimes come with a price tag. However, consider therapy an investment, not just an expense. The insights, coping mechanisms, and mental clarity gained can positively influence our personal and professional life, potentially offsetting costs in the long run.
  • Preventive care. Addressing issues before they escalate can reduce potential future expenses related to health problems, lost productivity, or strained relationships that might arise from unaddressed emotional or psychological challenges.
  • Varied pricing. Not all therapy comes with a hefty price tag. The cost varies based on the therapist's expertise, location, and specialization. It’s worth shopping around, comparing rates, and finding a fit for your budget.
  • Sliding scale options. Many therapists and clinics offer a sliding scale fee based on income, adjusting the fee according to our financial situation.
  • Group therapy. While individual sessions can be invaluable, group therapy is often more affordable and can provide a supportive community of peers facing similar challenges.

Here are some ways to make therapy more accessible:

  • Insurance. Many health insurance plans cover mental health services — check with your provider to see if therapy sessions are included.
  • Employee assistance programs (EAPs). Some workplaces offer EAPs, which can cover a set number of therapy sessions for free or at a reduced cost.
  • Online platforms. Teletherapy or online counseling platforms often provide services at a reduced rate compared to traditional in-person sessions. Plus, they offer the convenience of attending sessions from home.
  • Community resources. Local community centers, universities, or nonprofits may offer free or low-cost counseling services. University psychology departments, for instance, might offer sessions with trainees under expert supervision at discounted rates.
  • Workshops and seminars. While not a direct replacement for one-on-one therapy, mental health workshops or seminars can offer valuable tools and strategies at a fraction of the cost.

Costs and the Alcohol Journey

We routinely invest in physical health, with gym memberships, dietary supplements, or regular check-ups. It's crucial to view our alcohol cutback or quitting journeys in the same light and allocate our financial resources accordingly. The picture becomes clear when we consider the true cost of alcohol compared to the cost of therapy that aims to get us out of its grip:

  • Immediate expenses. Consider how much money goes towards alcohol purchases over a month, a year, or even a decade. The accumulated amount can be significant and often surpasses the investment in therapy.
  • Long-term impact. Alcohol-related health issues can lead to expensive medical bills and even loss of income due to missed workdays. Investing in therapy can prevent such scenarios, offering both health and financial savings.

There are many ways to include therapy in the alcohol journey more affordably:

  • Group therapy for substance use. These sessions are often more budget-friendly than individual therapy and provide a community atmosphere. Sharing with others on the same journey can offer unique insights and mutual support.
  • Substance use programs. Many cities offer specialized programs for people looking to reduce or quit alcohol. These programs might provide access to therapists and support groups at reduced rates.
  • Insurance and alcohol therapy. Many insurance providers recognize substance use challenges and cover therapy as part of the treatment. It's worth asking your provider about available benefits.
  • Teletherapy platforms. Online platforms might offer specialized therapy sessions for substance use at more affordable rates. 

Tackling the alcohol journey is no small feat, and therapy can be a vital ally. While concerns about cost are valid, it's essential to weigh them against the long-term benefits and the savings from an alcohol-free or controlled lifestyle. 

Myth #7: Therapy Is the Same as Talking to a Friend

While friends are fantastic for a heart-to-heart, therapists are trained professionals. They provide a neutral perspective, confidentiality, and evidence-based interventions. It’s the difference between getting fitness advice from a buddy or from a certified trainer! Here’s why:

  • Education and training. Therapists undergo years of rigorous training — not just in understanding the intricacies of human behavior and emotions, but also in guiding people towards constructive change. That diploma on their wall? It's not just decor; it’s a testament to their expertise!
  • Objective insight. Friends have shared histories, emotions, and biases that can shape their advice. A therapist, however, approaches our concerns with neutrality, so the guidance we receive is free from personal entanglements.
  • Confidentiality. While friends usually have our best interests at heart, therapists are bound by professional ethics to ensure that what's shared in therapy stays in therapy. They provide a space where we can freely express ourselves, without the fear of burdening or straining a personal relationship.
  • Evidence-based interventions. Beyond just lending an empathetic ear, therapists employ science-backed techniques and interventions to facilitate healing, growth, and change.
  • Personalized plans. Based on their assessment, therapists create tailored strategies to address specific challenges. Whether it’s cognitive-behavioral techniques or mindfulness exercises, they offer more than just a comforting chat.
  • Challenge with compassion. While friends might avoid pointing out certain patterns or behaviors to keep the peace, therapists gently challenge these patterns, encouraging our self-awareness and growth.
  • Depth and breadth of conversations. Sometimes we might avoid discussing certain topics with friends out of fear of judgment, misunderstanding, or not wanting to burden them. With therapists, even the most profound or complex issues can be brought to the surface.
  • Consistency. Friends have their own lives, challenges, and schedules. Therapists, on the other hand, provide consistent, dedicated sessions to focus solely on your well-being.

All in all, therapists are professionals equipped to guide us through emotional and psychological challenges with expertise and neutrality. So the next time you find yourself comparing a coffee chat to a therapy session, remember: both have their place, but they serve different roles in our lives. 

Professionals and the Alcohol Journey

Navigating the intricate journey of alcohol cutback or quitting is often a vulnerable process — one that presents unique challenges that often benefit from professional insight. Let’s dive into why a therapist might be the specialized co-pilot we need:

  • Expert analysis. Cutting back on or quitting alcohol isn't just about resisting a drink — it's about understanding why you reach for that drink in the first place. Therapists can help unearth and address underlying triggers, something friends might not be equipped to do.
  • Neutral observations. Friends, especially those who've shared a drink with us, may have biases. They might unintentionally minimize our concerns or be unable to see certain patterns. A therapist, with their objective stance, can provide unbiased insights on habits and behaviors related to alcohol.
  • Evidence-based strategies. The alcohol journey isn't a one-size-fits-all. Therapists can offer tailored, evidence-based strategies designed to address alcohol-related challenges.
  • Safe environment for total honesty. We might hesitate to fully disclose the extent of our alcohol consumption out of fear of our friend’s judgment or changing the dynamics of the relationship. In the confidential bubble of therapy, there's freedom to be completely transparent.
  • Social guidance. Social drinking is a huge part of many cultures, and avoiding alcohol can sometimes lead to isolation or peer pressure. While friends might empathize, therapists can provide actionable strategies to navigate such scenarios confidently.
  • Emotional support. The journey can be an emotional roller coaster of feelings ranging from pride and accomplishment to guilt or shame from potential relapses. While friends offer comfort, therapists help process these emotions constructively.
  • Regular check-ins. Especially in the early stages of the alcohol journey, consistent support can be invaluable. Friends, with their own lives and commitments, might not always be available. Therapists provide regular, dedicated sessions to track progress and address challenges.

In the grand scheme of the alcohol journey, friends are the cheerleaders, celebrating the highs and comforting during the lows. Therapists, on the other hand, are the coaches, offering specialized guidance, tools, and strategies to navigate the journey effectively. While a heart-to-heart with a friend can be therapeutic, a therapist’s expertise can be a game-changer on the path to an alcohol-free or controlled lifestyle. 

Your Action Steps to a Healthier Mind

Finally, here are some ideas about getting into the mindset that can allow you see past the myths related to therapy:

  • Be open. Accept the idea that everyone can benefit from therapy at different points in their lives.
  • Research. Find therapists or counseling services in your area. Websites like Psychology Today have extensive directories.
  • Ask questions. When you meet a potential therapist, ask about their approach, specializations, and what you can expect from sessions.
  • Set goals. Think about what you'd like to achieve through therapy — peace of mind, better coping strategies, or understanding yourself better.
  • Stay committed. Therapy takes time. Be patient with the process and yourself.
  • Consider group therapy. It’s a different dynamic and often more affordable. Plus, you get to learn from others' experiences.
  • Spread the word. Once you experience the benefits, be an ambassador. Debunk myths and encourage friends and family to prioritize mental health.

Choosing Your Path

Prioritizing mental health helps ensure long-term happiness and well-being. When it comes to alcohol, having some professional help to navigate changes can be a game-changer. Putting in the time and effort is well worth it in the end. Let the journey to self-understanding begin!

Summary FAQs

1. Is therapy only for those with severe mental health issues?

No! Therapy is beneficial for everyone, whether you're navigating life transitions, seeking personal growth, or addressing specific challenges. Especially in the alcohol journey, it can provide tailored strategies and support for those looking to cut back or quit.

2. Can't I just talk about my issues instead of going to therapy?

While talking is therapeutic, therapy provides specialized, evidence-based techniques to effectively address and resolve challenges. Particularly for those on the alcohol journey, therapists can offer insights and tools that casual chats may not cover.

3. Does therapy mean I'm committed for years?

Not necessarily. The duration of therapy varies depending on individual goals and challenges. Some may benefit from short-term therapy, while others opt for longer sessions. It's all about what suits your journey best.

4. If I go to therapy, does that mean I'm weak?

Absolutely not! Seeking therapy is a sign of strength and self-awareness. It's about taking proactive steps towards well-being, and in the context of the alcohol journey, it showcases commitment to positive change.

5. Will my therapist just nod and listen without offering solutions?

Therapists are trained professionals who offer more than just a listening ear. They provide feedback, insights, and actionable strategies to help clients navigate challenges, including those related to alcohol.

6. Isn't therapy expensive? Can I afford it while trying to cut back on or quit alcohol?

While therapy is an investment, the benefits often outweigh the costs. Moreover, there are various affordable options available, and when viewed in the context of savings from reduced or eliminated alcohol expenses, it becomes a valuable resource in the journey to sobriety.

7. How is therapy different from talking to my friend about my challenges, especially with alcohol?

Friends are wonderful supporters, but therapists offer objective, expert guidance tailored to your needs. Especially on the alcohol journey, therapists can help address underlying triggers, offer specialized strategies, and provide a safe, confidential space to discuss challenges.

Ready To Change Your Relationship With Alcohol? Make Reframe Part of Your Journey!

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