This short article is for people who hesitate to come to therapy. It addresses some of the reasons and their solutions, including:
- “Fear of Fear Itself”
- Failures of Prior Therapy
- Discomfort with Inactive Therapists
- How To Trust Your Comfort Level
Is It Procrastination or Fear?
Perhaps you know that you could use therapy, but you put it off or tell yourself it won’t work. This can come from a habit of procrastination, which only lets problems mount. It’s especially problematic if your partner is asking you to go to therapy but you fight off the suggestion and further alienate them. Often procrastination is not laziness or bad character — it actually originates in fear.
Overcoming “Fear of Fear Itself”
At his inaugural address during the height of the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt challenged the American people to take courage and overcome the “fear of fear itself.”
Some who consider entering therapy suffer from anxiety that’s bottled up and don’t want more stress. They may even be afraid of going crazy if they look inside. Most often, this is fear of fear itself. It’s a kind of obsessive feedback loop where the more you worry, the more you search for scary thoughts, which generates such thoughts, and the cycle repeats. This was one of the reasons I found it hard to enter therapy myself.
Disillusioned by Prior Therapy
Perhaps you had negative experiences with a therapist. If you were unable to resolve problems with that person, this doesn’t mean therapy won’t work. You have the power to choose your therapist. You can also decide not to proceed. Bring your past concerns to head off such issues from the start. Whether your fears are self-generated or have other causes, you’re likely to find that entering therapy calms your fears and addresses your reasons for seeking help. And since no therapist is perfect, daring to give your therapist feedback usually begins a healing process when you find that person responding more empathically to your needs. Such interpersonal courage often marks a healing breakthrough.
Discomfort with Inactive Therapists
For some people, it’s hard to speak to a stranger, especially about very personal issues. If this describes you, find a therapist who is gentle, offers guidance, and puts you at ease. If you find yourself with a therapist who passively waits for you to speak, and you feel uncomfortable with this, the problem may not be with you. That technique is good for people who don’t feel their anxieties enough and need to bring them forward for healing. But for someone who’s already anxious, this method tends to increase anxiety rather than help you reduce it.
Trust Your Comfort Level
Bringing your most intimate, personal issues for healing is an act of courage. It’s an interpersonal challenge that is eased when another person “gets” you and treats you with kindness and respect. If you’re not comfortable with the personality or expertise of the first therapist you meet, this may not be the right person for you. Psychotherapy is a significant investment of time, emotions and funds, so take the time to find a therapist with the sensitivity, social skills and expertise to competently treat your issues. You’ll know this by your level of comfort and their ability to help you experience yourself at a level of depth and healing.