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Overcoming a Fear of Therapy

Overcoming a Fear of Therapy

Starting therapy is one of the biggest decisions you can make. It takes courage and self-awareness to come to the realization that you can benefit from therapy. Above all, actually making and going to your first therapy appointment may feel scary for several reasons. It’s important to realize that these feelings are completely normal and that you are capable of calming these fears and getting the help you need. People fear therapy for a variety of reasons. As a result, they may put off seeking help.

Here are a few common fears that people have about therapy with tips on how you can address them.

Fear #1: I’m afraid of opening up to a complete stranger about my innermost thoughts

Notably, this is perhaps the most common fear that prevents people from going to therapy. It’s 100% reasonable to have these feelings. Sometimes, we are not even able to speak to loved ones, partners and close friends about our problems. There may be things that you have never mentioned to anyone before because you are afraid of judgment or how you will be perceived. Opening up to a complete stranger can feel downright terrifying.

With this fear, the most important thing to remember is that you are in control of what you decide to open up about. You don’t have to dive into your deepest, innermost thoughts until you are ready. You can take your time to become more comfortable in a therapy setting and explore different topics at your own pace. Your therapist will not rush you to open up before you’re ready.

Some people are comforted by the knowledge that their therapist “ceases to exist” after the session is over. Because your interactions with your therapist are limited to your sessions, you won’t have to worry about these interactions affecting any other aspect of your life. The relationship you form with a therapist is like a blank slate. They are not emotionally involved with you and are largely unaffected by the decisions you make. For example, you may be afraid to discuss something with a partner or coworker because of how it may affect your relationship or your work going forward. Your therapist can exist in a vacuum and your conversations with her will not directly affect the other areas of your life. This can make it easier to open up in your sessions, when you’re ready to do so.

As time progresses, and if your therapist is an ideal match for you, you may gradually feel encouraged to start opening up with more complex or difficult issues. This will allow you to make significant progress on your mental health journey. Think about it this way: we often open up to physical health professionals (such as dermatologists, gynecologists and urologists) in ways that initially feel uncomfortable, but ultimately help us to lead healthier, happier lives. It may help to take a similar approach with mental health professionals, too.


Fear of judgment is another common factor that prevents people from seeking therapy. We are either afraid that we’ll be judged by our therapist, or that other people in our lives will be judgmental when they learn that we are in therapy.

Remind yourself that a good therapist will never judge you. Therapists undergo specific training to create a safe therapeutic environment. They are professionals who are well versed in the broad spectrum of mental health issues and the human condition. They are able to take an objective and clinical perspective, which allows them to guide you towards solutions. Your therapist is there to help, not judge. Remind yourself that your therapist has spent a lot of time studying and being exposed to a wide variety of problems, fears, thoughts and behaviours. It’s unlikely that your therapist will be shocked or taken aback by the thoughts and behaviors that you share with them.

On the other hand, if you’re concerned about other people judging you for going to therapy, here are two things to remember. The first is that this is a personal choice and you don’t have to let anyone know that you’re in therapy. The second thing to remember is that those who love and care for you will be happy that you’re seeking help and trying to become a healthier person. Anyone who judges you for going to therapy is probably uneducated about the benefits of it, or may be projecting their own fears onto you.

Learning how to be confident in your decisions without caring too much what people think is one thing that can be accomplished through therapy.

Fear #3: I’m afraid That therapy won’t work

Sometimes, people are afraid that they will invest time, energy and money into therapy and it won’t work. You may even be afraid that your problems are unfixable. Remind yourself that millions of people have had successful experiences in therapy and that the techniques used by therapists have been researched and refined for decades. Generally speaking, most people see tremendous benefits from attending therapy. Trust that it can work for you, too.

It’s important to remember that therapy requires a lot of effort on your part in order for it to work. You may have to do a bit of trial and error to figure out which clinician and which techniques are most helpful for you. It may take a few tries to get it right. This does not mean that it won’t work. When you find the treatment plan that works for you, it can be life-changing. Putting effort into therapy will reap major rewards for your overall wellbeing.


If you have experienced a traumatic experience, it’s normal to repress or avoid thoughts about the experience. Many people are fearful that therapy will force them to relive their traumatic situations. Remember that your therapist will move at your pace and you don’t have to dive into anything before you’re ready.

More importantly, remind yourself that facing your difficult emotions is the only way to truly manage them. In order to heal from a traumatic experience, we cannot avoid it. These thoughts and memories will not go away by ignoring them indefinitely.Therapy provides a safe space for you to explore these memories and thoughts with the support of a trained professional. As you become more comfortable with therapy, you will find it easier to cope with these difficult thoughts and emotions.

Feel the fear and do it anyway

Notwithstanding the fears and reservations you may have around therapy, you can still take this step on your journey to better mental health. You can even share your fears with your therapist during your first session. In the same way that you push through fears in other areas of your life, you can begin therapy. When you’re ready, you can start by scheduling a free consultation to get matched with a therapist who best meets your needs.

How To Use CBT to Manage Fear

How To Use CBT to Manage Fear

During the Halloween season, many of us are watching scary movies, reading spooky books and enjoying the festive decorations. During this time of year, we put the spotlight on the emotion of fear and being scared. But most of us don’t fear monsters, goblins or vampires.  We more often face the fear of failure, fear of rejection and fear of missing out (FOMO) in our daily lives. Fear can prevent you from reaching your true potential and living your best possible life. Some of us may fear specific situations, objects or people. In trying to avoid these triggers, we may face difficulties in our daily lives and in the pursuit of our goals.

Fear is a powerful emotion that is instigated by perceived danger or threat. This emotion causes distinct physiological and behavioral changes. This can then trigger other emotions such as anger, sadness, and shame. In responding to this emotion, we may react by avoiding the perceived threat or confronting it. This is called the fight-or-flight response. This response can also trigger involuntary physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, sweaty and trembling hands, feeling lightheaded and frequent urination. These symptoms can then worsen your feelings of anxiety as you may feel like you are sick or in physical danger.

The Purpose of Fear

Fear is a very useful emotion. It’s the body’s way of telling us that there may be an impending threat to our safety or wellbeing. While fear can be a healthy and safe response in many situations, there are other times when a fear response is less helpful. In these situations, fear can prevent us from having valuable life experiences. For example, the fear of rejection may prevent you from applying for that job you want. Fears associated with social anxiety may prevent you from meeting new people and forming relationships. A fear of confrontation may be a hindrance to standing up for yourself in unjust situations.

A phobia, which is a type of anxiety disorder, is a persistent and excessive fear of a specific object or situation. People with phobias will do everything possible to avoid the object of their fear. They will experience significant distress if they cannot avoid the trigger. Agoraphobia, for example, causes people to avoid daily activities such as going to the bank or grocery store. Hydrophobia prevents many people from going to the beach.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, commonly known as CBT, is a fairly modern psychotherapeutic modality. It focuses on challenging (and ultimately, changing) unhelpful thought patterns, beliefs and cognitive distortions. CBT encourages you to literally face your fears via exposure treatment. This has shown to be effective in patients across the board, from people with extreme phobias to social anxiety. Exposure therapy encourages patients to “climb the fear ladder” by exposure to the object of fear in gradual increments.

For example, a patient with a fear of spiders may first look at pictures of spiders, then watch a video. When they are ready, they can observe a spider in an enclosed space from far away. Over time, they will get closer and closer. One day, they may get as far as handling a spider with their bare hands. This, of course, takes place over an extended period of time and at a pace that the patient can reasonably tolerate. If your exposures are overwhelming, this can have a counterproductive effect.

Similarly, those with social anxiety may climb the fear ladder by first smiling at a stranger on their daily commute and build their way up to initiating a conversation with someone at work. One day, they may feel confident enough to pursue a romantic interest. Decades of research has shown that if we deliberately and systematically confront our fears, the symptoms of anxiety drastically decrease over time.

Challenging Negative THOUGHTS

CBT also tackles fear by encouraging you to challenge your thoughts and cognitive distortions. Let’s suppose you are afraid of going outside to exercise because you think that everyone will laugh at you. CBT asks you to stop and challenge that thought. Why would they laugh at you? Wouldn’t they be too caught up in their own busy schedules to even give you a second glance? Do you laugh at people when you see them exercising? If someone does laugh at you, what does that say about them?

After asking yourself these questions over time, you may begin to notice that most of the things that you fear do not ever come to pass. You may also begin to notice that some fears are illogical and not rooted in fact. It also becomes evident that most of the time, the feelings of anxiety are far more intense than the actual experience of facing fear. With this knowledge, you become less fearful over time and more inclined to take action even when you are feeling fearful.

cbt offers faster results

Fear is an emotion experienced by everyone, but is far more common in people with mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is an effective and relatively quick type of therapy that is particularly effective in treating these conditions and in managing fears. Many patients see results within 5-20 weeks and patients are able to use the CBT techniques on themselves for the rest of their lives. In this way, CBT teaches you to be your own therapist.

The clinicians at Flourish Psychology provide a wide array of treatment modalities, including CBT. We would be happy to have a free consult with you to discuss your therapy needs.

Written by Francine Derby

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