Why Don't More People Have Counselling Therapy?

I have often wondered why it is that some people are comfortable with having psychological therapy, whereas others clearly are not. From my own conversations and ‘amateur research’ I’ve found that people tend to be put-off for the following reasons:-

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Since becoming qualified as a counsellor in 1995, and later as a psychotherapist in 2002, I have often wondered why it is that some people are comfortable with having psychological therapy, whereas others clearly aren't.

From my own conversations and ‘amateur research’ I’ve found that people tend to be put-off for the following reasons:-

Conditioning‘ – from their family or peers, which tells them they should be able to cope alone and not seek help. To just 'get on with it', keep a 'stiff upper lip', don’t 'air their dirty laundry', and to 'keep things behind closed doors’.

There would be a feeling of guilt, disloyalty and shame if they didn’t stick to this conditioning.

Shame – psychological therapies still carry a stigma here in the UK, and are often kept as a ‘secret’ - not to be disclosed to anyone who might then make a negative judgement. Assuming that it would be seen as defective and weak-minded for someone to need and want some help to get their life on track.

This is so different to the perception of therapy in America where it tends to be seen as courageous, life-enhancing and a sign of a commitment to personal development to be ‘in therapy’ and evolving as a more consciously aware person.

Cost – even though some counsellors price their services very low to become more competitive, their hourly rates (which are usually for only a 45-50 minute session) are still too high for many people.

All the more so because it's not known how many sessions they’ll want, need or be expected to have; and the overall financial cost – plus travel and perhaps parking fees – all mounts up.

Ironically they may end up spending a lot more on other ways to help themselves to temporarily feel a bit better (e.g. holidays, retail therapy, alcohol).

Time – involved in attending each session as well as the overall time – which can be months, or even years in some cases.

When we are in pain – whether physical or emotional/psychological – we all want a ‘quick fix’ and for the pain to go away and enable us to get on with life again.

Counselling therapy can be a lengthy process – particularly with some theoretical approaches – and an 45/50 minute 'hour' once a week (which is usual) entails a long commitment and a delay in ‘feeling better’.

Medications have their own side effects but can be seen by many as a quicker remedy - even though that might not actually be the case.

Fear - of being kept too long in therapy so that the therapist can make a good living. Fear of a lack of privacy and confidentiality; fear of being vulnerable, of becoming dependant, and of personal boundaries being weakened and thereby exploited or even abused by the counselling therapist.

Bad experiences - Either their own or of someone they know. All therapists should be supervised and insured and have a complaints procedure in place.

I have read, and agree, that it's the quality of the relationship (as well as a client’s readiness for change) that determines a positive outcome from counselling and psychotherapy, and not necessarily the type of training or the particular theory studied by the therapist.

Potential clients don’t know which therapist they will or won’t get along with, and if they didn’t ‘gel’ with him/her they might then blame themselves and stay too long in therapy waiting for things to improve – wasting both their time and money.

A good professional relationship with a counsellor has the client’s best interests at heart. I believe the aim for the therapist is to become redundant as soon as possible – because the client has achieved their goal(s) or at least has in place what they need to make the changes they desire - with support along the way as needed.

I have met and spoken with counsellors who have had clients in therapy with them for many years – the highest being 17 years! I seriously doubt the therapeutic benefits of this type of ‘dependency’.

Nowadays there are many tens of thousands of counsellors and psychotherapists in the UK (of varying training levels and skills) - with more being released each year from the ever growing number of training organisations that have sprung up over the last twenty years or so.

These therapists all tend to say similar things about themselves and what they offer in their on-line profiles and/or websites. It can be difficult for a prospective client to know who to go to for help with their emotional distress.

Trainee counsellors must make up a large proportion of the client population out there too these days. Stalwarts of one particular theory or method of therapy tend to believe that their way has all the answers – which I think is a dangerous and arrogant premise - and they won't then deviate from that one path.

People cannot be made to fit a theory…especially if this is keeping them in therapy for longer that necessary – when it can then become unethical and exploitative.

Clearly one size does not fit all, but the unsuspecting client does not tend to know what type of help they need – although they do usually have an idea or an experience of what they don’t want!

Again in my own experience that tends to be the long-term meandering ‘befriending’ type of counselling. What they say in these unfocused sessions is simply repeated back to them after being paraphrased and summarised. They also have to endure long silences and lack of direction, which can leave some people feeling misunderstood, frustrated and angry.

A counsellor working in such a way might then ‘label’ such negative client responses as ‘negative transference’ and discuss this at length with their own supervisor - instead of just seeing it as a natural reaction by a client to not being fully engaged with and effectively challenged to bring about actual change.

As you can probably tell I have some definite opinions about therapy – opinions which I believe to be fair and unbiased. (I have written at greater length about whether therapy is right for you or not – on page 93 of my book ‘The Ripple Effect’ Process – an introduction to Psycho-Emotional-Education).

After 20 years experience I have become very aware of the gaps that exist in what current counselling therapy and coaching have to offer – and I've set out to fill those gaps (see www.the-ripple-effect.co.uk)

I advocate a 'whole-brain and holistic' approach to emotional, psychological and physical well-being – and something that is brief, affordable and effective.

If someone would never even consider going for therapy - yet they still struggle, as we all do, to understand their own emotions, behaviours, and relationships - then the 10 online self help workshops of ‘The Ripple Effect’ Process would meet that need too (as well as counteracting the other main reasons, mentioned above, for not attending counselling or psychotherapy).

Have you avoided counselling therapy for any of these reasons - or others?

Maxine Harley (MSc Integrative Psychotherapy)


Please visit http://www.maxineharley.com and


Maxine Harley