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 #2: I’m afraid that I’ll be judged (by my therapist or by others)
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.
Fear #4 I’m afraid of reliving difficult or traumatic experiences
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.