Why People Fear Therapy
For many people, seeing a therapist is a major step in their lives. There is something elusive about emotional health that makes this type of healthcare visit a little less routine and a little more daunting. Emotional or mental health issues cannot be seen or measured in the same way as physical ailments, but yet our emotions can cause us just as much or more distress. Some of my clients have described therapy like taking off a bandage and exposing a wound.
Below are 3 reasons why therapy represents a source of apprehension or fear, along with ways you can rethink any doubts or misconceptions about the therapy process.
1) The Ultimate Exposure
One of the purposes of going to therapy is to talk about and ultimately develop solutions for issues, problems, or symptoms. An important part of the process is divulging your innermost thoughts and feelings to the therapist, who will serve as your guide to achieving your best self. Many people fear therapy because they are afraid to reveal such personal things about themselves to a person who is essentially a complete stranger. Therapy can also mean exposure of your self and in the process of exposure, you may admit to issues you don’t want to face or that you have worked hard to avoid for a long time. There are a lot of dynamics that go on, especially during the early stages of therapy that can truly cause a fear reaction. Exposure is a big source of fear for most humans because we fear the judgment that may come as a result of exposure. The more we expose, the more we feel we will be judged. Many of us will find ourselves downplaying our strengths and amplifying our weaknesses rather than pushing to work on both of these areas of our lives.
It’s important to be honest with your therapist (and with yourself) and part of the therapy process is developing trust with your therapist so that you feel increasingly comfortable disclosing personal information and history.
2) What’s Wrong?
A common reason people fear therapy is due to worries about what the sessions will reveal about themselves. Nowadays therapy is moving in a direction of positive psychology where the therapist will support you to focus on your personal strengths so that you can use those strengths towards your better sense of self and emotional recovery. In other words, the focus is not about what you can’t do, but what you can do to improve. We are often harsh on ourselves and believe that something is very wrong and this is actually quite normal, especially during times of stress. Keep in mind that your therapist has heard it all and just the mere fact that you are seeking support is an indication of your true emotional strength. Many people have the idea that the therapist is there to “analyse” and then report back what is wrong and what needs to change. People often fear that they will be discovered as being “crazy” or as having serious problems.
Therapists practice a more collaborative approach with clients. This means that you will work along with your therapist to learn to cope with problems or concerns and develop problem-solving and other strategies to improve your quality of life.
3) Will The Truth Set You Free?
A major source of fear when people consider going to therapy is that they will have to face the truth. Whether it is admitting the truth to themselves or the therapist pointing out areas of concern, this is often a reason people fear therapy or avoid therapy altogether. There are a variety of truths that are feared and this varies broadly from person to person. Some people may fear that going to therapy may reveal they should consider ending a toxic or abusive relationship. Others may fear that therapy will highlight concerns that they have settled in a job they are unhappy with and need to make a change. Whatever the source of truth is, we often at times want to avoid these revelations and we know that once we attend therapy, we may have to face things we know, deep down, need to be confronted.
In the long run, exposing the truth about things that we want to change about ourselves and our lives is a positive step forward. Being honest with yourself will ultimately be a very liberating experience. Trusting yourself is more difficult because you can’t escape you. Fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone because a therapist can be there alongside you as you pursue positive change.
There is no doubt that going to therapy is scary and although you may have an idea or fantasy of the events that will transpire during your sessions, there are an overwhelming amount of uncertainty. When you are willingly to seek therapy, you are agreeing to put yourself in a position of vulnerability and this takes much strength and courage. As a psychotherapist I believe it’s important that we start telling our stories so we can change the landscape of our environment for the better. Rather than seeing therapy as a source for those who are troubled, lost, or confused, consider perceiving therapy as a part of your 2019 journey towards better health, better self-care and your desire to grow and improve.
Psychotherapist - MSc Psych, PTSTA (P), CTA (P), UKCP, MBACP