5 reasons why people hesitate to seek therapy

Are you considering therapy, but feel like something is holding you back? Find out about some common obstacles to reaching out, and how to get past them.

The thought of contacting a therapist or counsellor for the first time can feel daunting. Even if you believe therapy could help, you may still hesitate. Reaching out to a stranger might be the last thing you want to do. Besides, where do you start? 

Why you might be holding back

Here are some things that can hold people back from seeking the help they need. If these thoughts have crossed your mind, know that you are not alone.

1.  Playing down the problem

Perhaps you think: ‘My problem isn’t really that bad. Many people have experienced the same, or worse – it’s not a big deal. No therapist would think my problem was bad enough for seeking therapy.’

A common misconception is that in order to reach out, you must have reached crisis point. In fact, it is better to get some support before things become unmanageable. Whatever your concern, a therapist or counsellor will listen to you with respect and acceptance.

Playing down the problem can also be a way of avoiding the reality of the situation. If you are used to managing on your own, it may feel uncomfortable to ask for help.

But we all need help sometimes.

If you notice feeling sad, anxious, or worried on a daily basis, or if you struggle to sleep, it is a good idea to find support. Most therapists offer short-term therapy, so you could start off with a few sessions and then decide if you want to carry on. 

2.  Fear of feeling awkward

Talking to a stranger about how you feel may feel foreign. ‘I’m not sure what I would say. What if I appear stupid? Or worse still: I might have to talk about things that I don’t want to.’

It is normal to feel a bit nervous when trying something new, and therapy is no exception. It may take a few sessions for you to settle in. When you start in therapy, you can take your time and go at your own pace. Your therapist is there to support you, not judge you. It is entirely up to you to decide what you want to bring up; you will not be pushed into talking about things before you are ready. 

3.  Help – I don’t know where to start!

How do I find the right therapist for me – it’s such a jungle out there?’

I hear you. There are a lot of therapists out there – and that’s a good thing! It means that you are more likely to find one that is a good fit for you. And here’s the thing – you don’t need to find the needle in the haystack. Contrary to what some people suggest, don’t feel that you have to line up 10 potential therapists and interview them one by one to find the ‘perfect match.’

Just as with friends and colleagues in general, there are many people that we can get on well with and work well with. Type some search words into an online directory (you can search for male/female therapist, geographical area, and type of problem, for example) and check out a few profiles. If one looks promising, contact them. Book a free initial call and have a chat. If it feels right, go with them.

4.  Fear of opening Pandora’s Box

Of all the fears, this is one I hear a lot. ‘I fear opening the flood gates. Therapy may be too upsetting. If I start crying, I may never be able to stop. It may be better to keep the lid on.’

It is normal to fear pain. And it is true that in therapy, you may feel a bit worse before you start to feel better, as you begin to open up about what is bothering you. But chances are that if you are considering therapy, you have already tried putting a lid on your emotions and it’s not working for you.

If you haven’t had anybody help you with your emotions in the past, fear of overwhelm is natural. Therapists and counsellors are trained to help you with this. They can also guide you through some mindfulness or breathing techniques that you can use to calm your feelings both during the session and in between.

5.  What if it doesn’t work?

You may have a nagging thought in your head, saying: ‘What if therapy works for other people, but not for me? What if I am the exception – a hopeless case?’

Fear of disappointment can hold us back from trying things out. We might prefer to play it safe and put up with the way things are. But the path to feeling better has got to start somewhere. Reaching out to a therapist can be that first step. The therapist will discuss with you what you would like to get out of therapy. This can help you define what ‘feeling better’ means to you.

As you gain a little bit of clarity, it gets easier to move towards your goals. Finally, be patient. Therapy is not a quick fix, but as you engage with it, change happens over time. 

I would love to hear your thoughts on this article. If you would like to connect, please contact me through my profile.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Karolina Christopher, UKCP-registered integrative psychotherapist and counsellor

Karolina Christopher is a UKCP-registered psychotherapist. She specialises in relational trauma and C-PTSD, and integrates bodywork and the creative arts in her therapeutic work. She is based in London and offers psychotherapy and counselling online.… Read more

Written by Karolina Christopher, UKCP-registered integrative psychotherapist and counsellor

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