13 Reasons Not to Go to Therapy

As a practicing psychotherapist, let me give you pause for thought. In an era of influencers, let me give you the low down on why you might like to give therapy a miss. It costs money and time; it might not work; it fosters dependence; endings are rarely good; the list goes on! Beware!

1.  It takes TIME.  Much quicker to go and see a doctor.  In six minutes you could walk away with a prescription.  Therapy requires at least fifty minutes a week, plus travel time.  That's hundreds of hours a year. If you go more than once a week, than double that.  

2.  It costs MONEY.  All that money.  Sure, you can try and go for free therapy on the NHS, or through insurance, but it is likely to be very very short term.  And there maybe some paperwork and waiting lists to deal with to.  But if you want your own therapist, for the time you need them, then it will cost you.  Maybe £50-100 pounds a hour in London.  So your annual bill will be 45 weeks x 50 = £2250 for once weekly therapy, and £4500 for twice weekly.  It's not cheap. Think of all the other things you could do with that money.  Pay off your bills, go study, buy a bike, eat out, go on holiday, save, contribute to your pension.  Is therapy really the best way to spend your money?  

3.  It requires WORK.  So you turn up for therapy,  Guess what,  you have to do the lion's share of the work.  You have to bring your experiences, thoughts and feelings.  Your therapist will be largely listening, making the odd comment, nodding, breathing, but generally being fairly subtle.  They won't really be telling your about their summer holidays.  They will be helping you to speak, to find words, to make sense, to bear the unbearable, to delve into your unconscious.  It's the complete opposite of surgery, where you lie inert, and the surgeon cuts you up; or general medicine, where you are given a diagnosis and prescription and treatment plan.  Therapy requires you to make the diagnosis and carry out the treatment.  It's a labour intensive treatment, and you will be expected to do most of the work.  In fact, the more work you do, the more fruitful the therapy will be.

4.  It is UNPREDICTABLE.   Depsite the wish of scientists and government departments to create a replicable, scalable, and eminently predictable therapy model, it doesn't work like that. Therapy is predicated on the meeting of two individuals, with no pre-defined or knowable outocome in mind.  A person entering therapy may decide to stay with their partner, or leave them; give in their notice, or go for a promotion.  None of this can be known or decided a priori.  What works for one person, doesn't work for another.  There have been many attempts to create therapy manuals and algorhythms.  None of them have worked.   So, if you go to see a therapist, investing time and money, you can have no idea what will happen.

5.  There is no MONEY BACK GUARANTEE.  If your kettle breaks down, you can get your money back.  If you ask your therapist for a refund you will leave empty handed.  

6.  You may FEEL WORSE.  Going to see a therapist may result you in talking about things you don't usually talk about; that you keep a lid on; or that you'd rather forgot.  This may lead to a mental unravelling, or even a breakdown.  You're therapist may do everything in their power to contain your emotions and make sure they don't bring about your mental disintegration; but even so, they will not be surprised if you feel really bad.  This may last a few sessions, or for months.  

7.   You become DEPENDENT on your therapist.  In our era of self-reliance and hustling, we all strive to express our independence.  You may pride yourself on your financial autonomy and individual mind.  However, you start to need your therapist.  You may miss them during holidays.  You may want to contact them in between sessions.  Your may notice that you start giving your therapy sessions much more importance than you'd ever imagined.  The dependency may allow you to let your guard down, and explore new material; to regress into earlier psychic states.  But the dependency is likely to increase over time as you share more and more with your therapist.  

8.  Therapy is WEAK.  There are powerful medical interventions.  Electroconvulsive treament, brain surgery, anti-psychotic medication, pain killers.  Take some of that. Boom. There are powerful self-medicating behaviours, such as alcoholism, drug addiction and self-harm.  These activities really pack a punch.  They change your state of mind, radically.  Therapy, by contrast is pretty weak.  Understanding your predicament, and your own hand in it, is  slow process.  There is no point in your therapist telling you what's wrong. That would go in one ear and out the other.  But gathering self-knowledge; that is a really arduous path; it will only ever be partial and limited.  Even once you know more about things, there is no guarantee anything will change.  You may understand things perfectly, and still chose to destroy your life.

9.  Your therapist is BIASED.  The business model of therapy requires your therapist to encourage you to keep coming back.  They may depend on you for their own income and standard of life.  What a bizarre model.  If you were to get better, could you trust them to tell you?  Or will they always seek to focus on what's wrong; what's in deficit?  Will they play up the sickness, at the expense of health?  Can they really be impartial?

10.  Therapy allows for SELF-DELUSION.  You can go for therapy for a long time, and go in circles.  If speak to your spouse or long-term friends, they can save you a lot of time.  If you can bear to hear it, they will tell you what you're really like.  They know you better than you know yourself;  they have a good sense of your shadow areas.

11.  ENDING is terrible.  You may decide to see a therapist for your whole life.  If you decide to stop therapy you will have to deal with that. If you've had previous sudden endings, then ending therapy can be traumatic, and lead to the resurfacing of mental health problems.

12.  Therapy is SUBJECTIVE.  You can't bring a friend to therapy to get a second opinion, or to cross-examine your therapist.  You're therapist will also change over time.  Inevitably, especially over a long therapy, they may go through periods of ill-health, or, in extreme cases, die.  You are exposed to the vagaries of your therapists health and psyche and there a limit to how much you can protect yourself from this aspect of the therapy.

13.  RUNNING maybe better for you.  Or oragami, or yoga, or kite-flying.  There is no guarantee that therapy is the answer.  

I could go on and on.  Seeing a therapist is a dangerous business.  Working on the unconscious, through talking, sharing dreams, over time, is a radical business.  There is no money back guarantee, no predictable outcome.  There are lots of much more enticing alternatives.  The funny thing is, in our scientific age, filled with a million quick fixes, more and more people are knocking on the psychotherapists door.

Go to the profile of Dr Ajay Khandelwal, Psychoanalyst

Dr Ajay Khandelwal, Psychoanalyst

I have 25 years experience in the mental health field running addictions and psychotherapy services. I have a BA from Oxford University and a PhD on family dynamics from Essex University. I am registered member of the College of Psychoanalysts, UKCP and BACP and the Guild of Psychotherapists. I work face to face. My consulting rooms are in SE1 (Borough High Street/ Southwark Tube) and W1 (Regents Park, Harley Street). I also offer consultations by telephone.

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