Let’s be honest, the thought of going to therapy is terrifying to most people. You’re going to be talking to a stranger, you’ll be telling that person your secrets, some embarrassing stuff is likely to surface, and then you pay them!! You wonder how this person is going to help you. Will they judge you? What if everyone thinks you’re crazy?
While it’s normal to be apprehensive about going to therapy, especially if you’ve never been before, I don’t think fear is a good reason not to go. You have to weigh the risks and benefits of attending therapy and decide if your mental health and wellbeing are worth the cost (emotional and financial). Sometimes we have to take big risks to get big rewards. Is there a better payoff than being able to handle problems on your own, feeling confident, overcoming fear and anxiety, reaching your goals, or being comfortable with who you are for the first time in your life?
So why does the thought of going to your first therapy appointment scare the shit out of you?
1. You don’t know what to expect: If you’ve never been before, going to therapy represents the classic fear of the unknown. What are you supposed to do and how are you supposed to act? What will the therapist ask of you? Am I going to have to talk about everything right away? Again, all these questions and speculations are highlighting and escalating your fear. If you take some time to look at this process, you’ll probably find that fear is overruling your life and keeping you from doing the things you want to do. In fact, it’s likely a huge contributor to the reason you’re considering therapy in the first place. Do you see how allowing fear to take over your decision making could negatively impact you?
2. The therapist will judge you and everyone will think you’re crazy: I hear this all the time, and of course there are many variations of jokes surrounding the idea of working with “crazy people” when I talk about being a therapist. Therapists receive years of training and have numerous discussions surrounding the concept of being nonjudgmental and conveying empathy. Your therapist will ask you hard questions and encourage you to look at your life, and at yourself. However, your therapist will not judge you. I make an effort to understand my clients’ perspectives, their decision making, their internal world, and how they interpret the actions and words of others. I’ve found that there’s always a reason why we do the things we do, but we don’t always show that to others for fear of judgment. I can’t guarantee that other people won’t think you’re crazy. People have preconceived notions and biases about what it means to be in therapy. But I can tell you that you can’t control what others will do or think about you, you can only control your own reactions and self perceptions. So essentially, why does it matter what other people think?
3. You can’t afford it: It’s true, therapy is an investment. You might be frightened when you hear the cost, and your initial thoughts are that you could never afford it. If you take a look at your spending, you can see what things are important to you and what things are non-essential. You may be spending money on things that are part of your self-care, and perhaps there is some room for adjustments. We spend money on things that we find valuable. What’s more valuable than you? Some may say that your family or children are more important and that you have to sacrifice yourself and your wellbeing. Believe me, I’ve been there, I’ve thought that way. But have you seen that image going around social media of the empty coffee cup? The one that says “you can’t pour from an empty cup, take care of yourself first”? Yeah.
4. You’ll have to be vulnerable: Although I’ve found that the dialogue surrounding showing emotions is changing, especially with the popularity of mindfulness, self compassion, and movies such as Inside Out, people are still scared of showing uncomfortable emotions to others. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say that they “can’t cry in front of anyone or they’ll think I’m weak” or that they have to hide when they’re going through a hard time. We feel the need to put on a perception that everything is perfect. Actually, we connect with other people through our vulnerability; it’s part of the shared human experience. So yes, you’ll be asked to share some tough stuff, and you’ll feel like you want to run far away. It’s too much, it’s too scary. Is there a better place to practice expressing that scary stuff than in the safety of an office with someone that will accept you no matter what, with someone that will stick with you, with someone that won’t judge you?
These are all completely normal concerns; however, many fears about going to therapy are simply not justified. The fear and scariness level are just things you’ve built up in your head. Most people feel better after just one session with a therapist, simply by being in the room with something that is empathetic, doesn’t judge them, and hears them out. You know how sometimes you just need to get something off your chest or you really want to have a good cry? Of course, therapy involves much more depth than just that. But there is value if finding something that can help you feel better immediately, and then build upon that work in future sessions.
In part 2, I'll discuss more about the 8 reasons you should go to therapy despite it being scary. Here's a sneak peak about what I will be talking about: (therapy is effective, you can do things beforehand to prepare, therapy is cheaper than alternatives, the therapeutic relationship is special and can model other relationships in your life, therapy can help you stop judging yourself, you can feel comfortable being the real you, therapy is a fluid process and you have control over it, and finally, the payoff can be huge)!
What are some other reasons that you’ve feared therapy or ways that the benefits have outweighed the risks? I’d love to hear from your experiences. Please comment below and share your thoughts.