Many people google therapists, read articles like this one, and even drive around the parking lots of potential therapist’s offices…but they don’t schedule an appointment and follow through.
Often, people struggle far too long with concerns they would like to talk about with a counseling professional because they are worried about the risks, the process, and how they’ll be perceived by loved ones or even the therapist they see. Fear, stress, and anxiety can get in the way of treating our fear, stress, and anxiety!
Here are some ways to overcome your fear of therapy and find relief in the safety of the therapy room:
1. Stand up to Stigma
As much as we educate ourselves about mental health, the stigma of being unable to manage challenges on our own still looms, even though we long for support. Is that what worries you? Or, are you afraid your loved ones, boss, or even your partner will wonder what’s wrong with you instead of what’s right about getting the help you need?
You’re not alone. Mental health stigma can be scary; it’s scarier to suffer without knowing how to stop your pain.
Try to think about this differently. How would you respond to a family member or friend who felt terrible physically and suffered daily? What if they told you how much they wanted to feel better, but that they were afraid you’d look down on them for going to the doctor? Would you say they were weak, or that they were faking their illness?
Of course, you wouldn’t! Don’t wait to get relief. The stigma around seeking help for your mental health is an obstacle you have every right to bulldoze on the way to feeling better!
2. Rethink Your Problem with Labels
Diagnoses can feel scary, as though we are being physically branded with a label for the rest of our lives. It can feel as though we are no longer ourselves.
Yet, to go on suffering for fear of finding out what’s wrong cannot be the answer either! Your relief is too precious to sacrifice to the fear of having a label. Again, let’s turn this on its head: knowing what is going on for you is the freedom to know yourself better. It’s the freedom to find the right counselor and treatment for your needs.
If your therapist diagnoses you with a mental illness (which, often they do not), you can use your diagnosis as an opportunity to find friends and supporters who get you. Even better, you can be a support for a community of people who need you and know you understand them.
3. Assert Yourself and Talk Back to Your Inner Critic
Negativity can sink motivation and perseverance if we let it take hold for too long. When you start to think thoughts like, “I’m too far gone for therapy,” or “I’m not hurting enough for professional help,” recognize them as fear-based self-talk. Don’t let that voice steal your chance at peace and progress. The inner critic doesn’t have your best interest at heart.
You have every right to pursue happiness and well-being. Assert your right to speak up for yourself, first in your own head, and then in the safe, supportive environment of your counseling sessions. You deserve it.
4. Be Mindful, Compassionate, and Patient
We can get worked up and upset when we need help. Therapy may seem like a slap in the face to our self-sufficiency and independence, as though we have failed at being healthy, strong, and self-sustaining.
But that isn’t the case at all. We are wired for interdependence and belonging. We’re made for cooperation.
It’s okay to be different, to struggle, to feel whatever you feel; and it’s okay to deal with that in therapy, a support group, or through your own self-reflection and exploration.
Notice and allow yourself to feel the fear of therapy. Don’t beat yourself up for it. Patiently start to work on yourself. Set a goal to call a therapist. When you’ve made the appointment, set another goal to attend the first appointment or have a friend drive you and keep you accountable. Take it one step at a time.
Remember, you’re not in this alone. Therapy is a first step you can make to take care of yourself. It’s okay to reach out for help in navigating the challenges you face in your personal life and in your relationships.
Grace Wood, MA, LPC Intern, is currently accepting new clients at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. If you are still unsure about beginning therapy, start by reaching out and giving Grace a call at (512) 270-4883, ext. 116, or request an appointment online through the RCC Austin Scheduling page. We’ll take care of the rest.