Does the idea of seeing a therapist scare you? Are you nervous about trusting a stranger or people finding out that you’re struggling? It's understandable to feel uncertain. Maybe you've never been to a counselor before. Or, perhaps you’ve had treatment and it wasn’t a good experience. Sometimes it’s hard to talk about your mental health, and that’s OK. Counselors are there to help and they know it can be tough to get started.
In this guide, we'll walk through some of the reasons you don't want to go to therapy. Then you’ll learn about the best situations for self-help and therapy. You’ll get a better idea how to approach your problems and get the best solution for you.
Why you might be scared of going to therapy
Getting help from a therapist may be the strongest thing you can ever do. If you don’t know much about therapy, it’s normal to feel hesitant. Even if you understand why you need it, the thought of talking to someone may make you nervous. Below we'll look at some of the more common reasons you may be scared to go to therapy.
You’re concerned about being judged or shamed
Once you share your deepest secrets, you may worry that your counselor will judge you or think you’re crazy. And if a mental health professional thinks you’re a lost cause, what hope is there?
Being ridiculed or shamed is never acceptable in counseling, and it’s unlikely to happen. But when emotions run high, your mind can go to a worst-case scenario like this.
You’re worried about opening up to a stranger
Where do you even start? What if you can't find the words and therapy is a big waste of time? You may also worry that your secrets will get out once you start talking to your counselor. Or maybe you'll become too overwhelmed with emotion and embarrass yourself. After holding yourself together for so long, letting someone peek through the facade can sound scary.
You don’t want to face your emotional pain
Talking about your issues will bring you closer to your emotional pain. And if you don't go to counseling, you could avoid it for a little longer. You may worry that if you look too deeply into your problems, they may consume you. Or, the changes you'll need to make will be too difficult to pull off. Strange as it may sound, leaving your pain alone may be the more comfortable choice.
Mental health stigma is holding you back
Stigma is one of the biggest reasons people don't start counseling. They don't want others to judge them as being weak or incapable. Conditions like depression and anxiety can magnify self-doubt and make you feel self-conscious. You may feel too embarrassed that someone may see you walking into a counseling office or ask where you were.
You aren’t sure how counseling works or how it can help
If you’ve never been through counseling, you may not understand how it could help. Why would you want to spend every minute of therapy talking about painful things? It may seem like talking about it so much would make you feel worse, not better.
Do you need to go to therapy, or can you help yourself?
You may hesitate to start therapy because you’re pretty sure you can manage it yourself. If you can do it, why bother with therapy?
Self-help methods and positive coping skills are essential for everyone to know. These methods can help you get through many difficulties on your own. But some conditions are too intense or complex to be managed with self-help.
There’s no substitute for a skilled counselor using evidence-based treatment methods. Here are a few ways to tell if self-help is enough or therapy could be your next step.
When to try self-help methods
Self-help is effective for a lot of life's challenges. You can work through your issues at your own pace and with a variety of methods. Here are some signs that you can manage your own challenges.
● You’ve taken action with self-help methods before and have gotten results.
● You’re willing to take action now to solve your problem, with or without someone to keep you accountable.
● Your problem is bothersome, but you can keep up with your job. You can stay involved with relationships and take care of your personal needs.
● This problem doesn't appear any worse than similar issues in the past.
● You have several ways of relieving stress and improving your mood, and you do them regularly.
● You’re open to talking about your problems with friends, loved ones, or other people you trust.
● You’ve been through counseling before and have learned several helpful strategies.
● You understand what's bothering you and healthy ways to cope with it.
● You’re willing to learn more about your issues by doing research or by talking with others.
● Your problems don’t put you at personal risk of hurting yourself or others.
When to consider therapy
Sometimes emotional pain is so intense that you can’t function well. In this case, it’s time to consider therapy. If you see any of the following red flags, self-help methods may not be enough. Untreated mental health conditions can be harmful over time, so it’s vital to know when to see a professional. Here’s what to look for:
● Your emotions are intense and you have trouble managing them.
● You've noticed changes in either your sleep or appetite, or maybe both.
● You aren't doing well at school or work.
● Your relationships are strained, or you’re withdrawing from them.
● You don't feel pleasure from activities you usually enjoy.
● You turn to substances, sex, excessive spending, or other potentially risky behaviors to cope with emotional pain.
● You've been through difficult experiences like trauma or grief.
● You may be at risk of hurting yourself or others.
Going to therapy - facing your fears
If you’re scared to start therapy, you’re not alone. Counseling therapy can be uncomfortable at times and it takes effort. But addressing emotional issues can improve your quality of life. Counseling is effective and can be the right choice for you, even if the thought of it stirs up some fear. Take your time as you decide what works for you.