As a mental health professional, I get the privilege of sitting with people as they embark on their personal journey to wellness and change. By the time a client comes and sits in my office, a great deal of life has occurred. For many people, there is conflict, distress, and suffering before making the initial call to start therapy. There are plenty of reasons why people go to therapy, but the opposite is true as well. So, why do people wait so long before beginning therapy?
You think your problems aren’t big enough for therapy.
You may even think you can solve your problems yourself. It isn’t that you haven’t tried. In fact, many therapists believe that issues arise from attempted solutions going awry. It can be hard for anyone to admit that their issues are as big or troublesome as they are and even harder to admit you cannot fix them on your own. You might believe that your problems have to be extreme, tragic, or unsurvivable in order to justify this investment in yourself and your relationships. But, when we hear of others going to therapy, our judgments of them are nowhere near as harsh as our own inner critic.
You fear what will happen if things change.
I know this sounds silly. I mean, why would someone struggling not choose to seek relief? This is because the misery we know feels safer than the journey that is unknown. What if you find out what I was afraid of was true all along? What will you have to give up in order to be happy, confident, or whole? When we move toward our difficult feelings and discomfort, those feelings dissipate faster. The fear we have around change and the unknown is meant to protect us. But, when we only allow our fear to inform our decisions, the less room we have for imagination, wisdom, and possibility.
The Cost is too high.
Therapy can be expensive. Why would you pay someone to listen to you when you can call a friend? But money is not the only cost– when you have to factor childcare, rearranging your schedule, and actually finding a good therapist, it sometimes feels that therapy isn’t worth the extra hassle. These are all valid barriers, but I wonder how these barriers would hold if we were in physical pain rather than mental pain. Our society puts more value on treating impacted teeth than impacted mental health. This is probably because it is easier to hide our mental and relational pain than our physical.
Going to therapy will mean _____ about you.
As I mentioned, society holds a stigma around mental health and therapy. Let me invite you to go inward: think of someone whose opinion of you matters, someone you value or look up to. If that person found out you were struggling and going to therapy, what would be the worst thing they would think about you? Would it be that you were weak, “crazy,” incapable, unmotivated, or defective? What if that person didn’t think that at all? See point #1. We project the worst things we think about ourselves onto others. Does this ring true for you? Therapy can help change the ways you think about yourself.
I would like to finish this post with a reflective question: What kind of life, relationship, family, and world for myself would I have created if I’d been braver? I have good news! There’s still time. We would love to hear your answer to this question–give us a call.