The year is 2021, and you are still on the fence about whether or not there are benefits to therapy in general, or for yourself personally. Perhaps you have spent a lot of time surrounded by people who have stigmatized therapy, therapists, psychology, or any number of mental health outlets and components. Perhaps you haven’t met anyone who (as far as you know) has gone to therapy. Or maybe you have, but that person had been through an intense circumstance that you felt “validated” the need for therapy.
Maybe you’ve tried therapy before or tried to find a therapist who you could relate to but couldn’t. Maybe you have a vague notion in the back of your mind that you’d like to talk to someone, but you haven’t been able to quite work out where to start or what to ask for, or who to ask. If you have been considering beginning or returning to therapy, that is a good sign that it is probably something you should be doing. However, you may be resisting the idea; perhaps you have identified the source of your hesitation, or perhaps not. Here, we will unpack some of the common reasons people resist or avoid therapy and also examine the benefits of therapy.
What stops you from going to therapy:
- I have done it before, it doesn’t work for me.
Past negative experiences can definitely feel like a valid deterrent in any situation. Perhaps you and your spouse tried couples’ counseling, then got divorced. Perhaps your parents sent you to a therapist when you were a child, and you had a negative experience. It can be a challenge to visualize something that didn’t work before working now, but that doesn’t mean that that vision is out of reach.
If you think about your past situation, you may be able to identify key factors that have changed or could change. Perhaps you and your previous therapist just weren’t a good fit. Maybe your mindset about doing the work wasn’t quite actualized, or maybe you were a much more shy person back then and struggled to open up about the things you needed the most help with. This isn’t to blame you for whatever situation you may have been in in the past, it’s simply a tool to compare your past experience with your current potential.
If you truly want therapy to work for you now, you will find someone you connect with. You will do your best to be open. You will do the work required of you. And chances are, if you’re thinking up reasons why not to go to therapy, it’s because you’ve got therapy on your mind. Your thoughts probably return to the idea for a reason; you know that you need a little help or support with something. Believing that that help exists and you are able to find it is a significant indicator that you will be able to do so.
- I don’t have time for it, and I don’t have the money.
If we are very busy, it can be hard to imagine making time for ourselves to attend therapy on any sort of regular basis, despite understanding the value of a healthy mindset. This is a similar issue that can be faced when we are looking at our finances: “I know this is valuable, but I just can’t afford it.”
It can be a struggle to prioritize mental health, despite the fact that mental health is the most significant aspect of health as it pertains to our quality of life. The impact of our mental health on our lives is literally felt every minute of every day. Even while we are asleep, our mental health can play a role in how well we sleep, what we dream, or how often we wake. Our ability to handle stress at work, or communicate with a partner in a way that is clear and fair and respectful, or simply have the energy and optimism to get out of bed in the morning, can all vary depending on our state of mind. Finding the time or money to set aside for therapy is an act of self-care. We may have to evaluate where we are currently spending our time and money and reorganize our list of priorities. But when we think of the potential rewards of improving our mental health, this becomes simpler and easier to do.
- I can just do it on my own; maybe read a book, watch a Youtube episode, or listen to a Podcast:
This is an especially easy belief to fall into if we are hesitant to open up to people. There may be a variety of reasons why the act of going to therapy is intimidating or overwhelming to us, not the least of which include fear of being judged, nervousness about privacy, and guilt about “burdening another person with our problems”. These obstacles in thought make it very tempting to isolate and “go it alone”, despite the fact that that doesn’t seem to be helping us feel any better. Books and online media are a great tool to supplement therapy or continue education and understanding about things discussed in therapy. But there is no feedback in a book, a YouTube episode, or a Podcast, and feedback, analysis, and affirmation are vital components of processing the events or circumstances that brought us to therapy in the first place.
- My “issues” aren’t “bad enough:”
This misconception is so persistent and so heartbreaking to see as a therapist. It often comes with a sense of judgment about life events, or comparison to others. Sometimes, this thought process surrounds a deeper, underlying sense of low self-worth and value. You may reflect on the events of your life or your daily feeling of malaise, and feel that it is not worth your time – or a therapist’s – to discuss in a therapeutic manner, but this is simply not true.
Anything in your life that is a pain point: an unhealthy relationship, a traumatic event, a communication issue, anything that impacts your ability to feel happy and healthy, and confidence, is worth exploring with a therapist you trust. This isn’t to say that with therapy, you will never have “bad days” again, but there will be a far greater number of “good days” if you are operating from a place of inner peace, self-esteem, and a validation of your experiences. Every person who feels hurt or sad about any given situation is worthy of exploring that emotion in therapy, period.
Maybe you’ve identified why you resist therapy, but you still aren’t sure if it’s the right idea for you. Maybe you’re not sure what you’ll gain from it, or how to get the most out of it. You may ask yourself, “Why to bother with Therapy?”
There are things that you need to keep in mind when you consider seeking out and obtaining therapy.
- Therapy is a consistent act of self-love and self-care.
We all need to show ourselves the consideration and kindness that we would show others, and therapy is an investment in being able to do so.
The neutral and unbiased insights that can be provided by a therapist will be impossible to find anywhere else in our lives. Try as they might, our trusted confidantes will always have a personal opinion, usually, one that comes from a loving place that is not beneficial in helping you explore the situation. Think about the last time you were having communication issues with a partner and talked to your best friend about it. He/she/they may have offered a few, “Well have you tried…?” or “Did you guys ever…?”s, but in general, that person was mostly thinking how upsetting it was to see you struggling. It is great that you have loved ones who are your passionate supporters, who are “on your side” no matter what, but that makes them largely unqualified to help you identify your actual pain points and how to address them.
In that same context, the validation that you can receive from a neutral third party is going to meet a need your loved ones cannot fill. Sometimes, their support and feedback will not resonate, because you know that they love you unconditionally. While a therapist will not uphold and validate everything you say and do, he/she/they will affirm what you are correctly identifying, which will feel more true to you because your therapist has no skin in the game, as it were, other than to help you live the healthiest life you can.
A therapy environment is also one that gives us full permission to talk about our problems when perhaps we might have hesitated. A lot of us feel guilt or shame around opening up to our loved ones when we are sad. Of course, your loved ones want to be there for you, and you know that deep down. But there can be something liberating about having someone to listen to you and provide feedback; where you might start to judge how long you’ve been talking about an issue with a friend, you know you’ve got an allotted time slot with your therapist that you have paid for. Compensating your therapist financially can alleviate some of the negative thoughts we have about “taking up space”; you are paying a professional to do his/her/their job, a job they obviously enjoy and are passionate about! You have the whole hour, you might as well use it!
The kinds of truths, revelations, and insights we can come across when we give ourselves permission to speak freely can be essential to resolving our feelings about a certain subject or dealing with a persistent emotion or habit. This doesn’t mean that we won’t share with our friends and family, it may just mean that what and when we share feels more comfortable for us because we know we have an unbiased professional on our side to provide us with tools to deal with our maladies.
- There is definitely therapy available that meets your needs.
The therapy you may have tried before may not have worked, or you may wonder about your ability to pay for therapy, but there are so many ways you can seek out therapy! There is individual therapy, family therapy, couples’ therapy, or group therapy. These types of therapy can support you differently based on your needs, which may be different than the last time you spoke to a therapist or may have a price point that you know you can afford.
With all these different types of therapy available, it is important to know how to find a therapist. Research has found that 75% of the therapeutic effectiveness lies in the relationship between the therapist and the client. Therefore, it is very important that you work with someone with whom you can build a safe and trusting relationship. It is okay to ask yourself whether you would want to work with a female or a male client. It is okay to want someone of a specific age. At times, people want an older therapist who has more life experience, whereas other times people may want a younger therapist who can relate to them. Everyone has preferences and it is important to know what yours are. This could make all the difference in your therapy experience and could have been what was missing if you tried and did not feel you benefited from therapy in the past.
I highly recommend that you have a 20-minute free phone consultation before booking your first appointment. During this call, it is important that you share a little bit about yourself and your therapy needs. For example, if you are seeking therapy for OCD, it is important that you inquire about the therapist’s experience in treating OCD. A therapist who specializes in OCD will be an IOCDF member and will have done additional training on ERP. If you are seeking a couples therapist for your relationship with your partner, you can inquire about their modalities, such as The Gottman Method, or Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFT) by Dr. Sue Johnson.
- For therapy to work, you need to do the work:
You have to be ready to do therapy. This may have made the difference in the past if you have tried therapy before. It will definitely make a difference as you begin the process, whether for the first time or the fortieth. It is normal to have some ambivalence about therapy. It is normal to feel scared. I am not suggesting that you will be 100% ready to start. But once you work through these feelings with your therapist, in order to have the long-term benefits of therapy, you must be present. You must be willing to show up. It is normal and expected that it takes time to build trust between you and the therapist; however, once that safety and trust are established, you need to have the courage to work on the unresolved issues. That might mean having to tell your therapist things you have never shared with anyone else.
Another part of being an active participant in your therapy means doing work outside of therapy sessions. You need to turn your insight gained from your therapy sessions into action in your life to see real change. Those things can include: practicing setting boundaries, asserting your needs, reading an assigned book, or practicing meditation. At times, in the session, I have my clients take note of things that stand out to them. It could be a reflection, a concept, or an idea that they discovered, or one that I share with them. It could be something they want to remember or something that they need to journal about after their session. This would be the place where the work is done in therapy is supplemented with books and online media. Your willingness to allow therapy to spark change, rather than relying on your sessions to be your only effort, will make all the difference.
Whatever your reason for attending therapy, the decision to go has to be made for yourself.
Nobody but you can or should enforce your attendance at therapy. That doesn’t mean that you should decline a partner’s suggestion of couples’ therapy just because you didn’t think of it first, it just means that your decision to go should be because you agree that there is a potential benefit of attending. Entering a therapy situation with a closed mind won’t make progress impossible, but it will definitely make it improbable. As with anything we add to our lives as part of a routine or pattern, it is important to revisit our motivation from time to time, to evaluate our priorities, and to affirm to ourselves that we are worthy of the best possible outcome.
Embracing You Therapy Group Practice
Here at Embracing You Therapy Group, we invite you to explore with us how life would be different if you had more control over your thoughts and emotions, and we invite you to consider that it is possible to accept things just as they are, EMBRACING imperfections to create a gentler place for CALM in your life.
At our mental health practice in Woodland Hills, CA, we offer individual therapy and couple’s therapy. Both Dr. Menije and Cindy Sayani, AMFT offer virtual therapy to treat mental health concerns include Anxiety, panic attacks, OCD, phobias, and stress; Mood disorders including depression; Relationship issues, both in couples therapy and with individual clients; Perinatal mental health issues such as postpartum depression or anxiety.
Let’s learn what drives your unique perspective on anxiety and stress, and then let’s find the tools-your unique tools-that help you respond to life in a healthy, calm way.