Fear of therapy is a very real phenomenon, but as you might expect, not one I’ve experienced myself. At least, that’s what I thought as I started to write this, but thinking back to a time in the late ’80s while I was convalescing from a serious road accident, I remember that I had been afraid to get help for my mental state.
I was healing well from the physical damage, the psychological healing hadn’t even begun. I needed help but I didn’t know where to start!
It takes inner strength and commitment to say “I could use some help/guidance”, or “I need to devote some time to myself”.
Where does fear of therapy start?
I don’t know where it came from, but there’s an idea floating around about therapy that links it to weakness. It may be implied rather than stated but it runs deep in some cultures; seeking help with a personal difficulty implies that the seeker is somehow broken, inadequate or helpless.
It’s ironic that while it is seen as irresponsible not to seek help with a physical illness, there is a taboo against wanting to fix an ailment of the spirit (if ‘spirit’ turns you off, try ‘psyche’).
in a world so preoccupied with happiness, success, wellbeing and fulfilment, there is an equal and opposite tension the deflects people from the things that can help a person achieve them.
Fear of therapy might simply be fear of the unknown, so getting more information might be the answer.
I’m not saying that therapy (or coaching, counselling, or the many other possible routes one can take), is the only way. Plenty of people manage very well on their own, and there are lots of resources out there that make ‘therapy’, in the conventional sense unnecessary.
How to be brave about it
Choosing a path that leads to self-knowledge is a step that requires courage and commitment. Fear of therapy might simply be fear of the unknown, so getting more information might be the answer.
Personal growth is an inevitable side-effect of living anyway, getting help, looking for guidance – or whatever you want to call it – is a sensible way to help the process along, and it can change your outlook forever.
Rather saying or thinking things like “There’s nothing wrong with me”, “Counselling is for losers”, or “I don’t do therapy”*, how about “I’m not strong/brave enough to sort myself out”, or “I don’t take my wellbeing seriously, so I won’t get help”. If you are really stuck – as in, you know you need help but fear of therapy is stopping you – then here’s some advice on how to move forward.
Self-improvement happens as we live and learn and for all sorts of reasons that natural process can use a bit of help and support. Either when we hit a particular challenge or crisis, or because we have picked up habits or ideas about ourselves that we’d like to change.
Making that choice is not for everyone, sure, but don’t run away with the idea that people who take themselves seriously are somehow weak or inadequate.
* These are all things that I have heard said.
Barry Winbolt is a counsellor, brief therapist and writer. He lives in Seaford, South East England, and works with clients at his Seaford office and worldwide via Skype. He is committed to sharing his knowledge and experience through his writing, training and personal consulting practice. His driving idea is to show how easy it is to improve emotional wellbeing and to sweep away the doubts and uncertainties that often prevent people from sorting out the things that trouble them.