I recently read a piece by Suzanne Gelb, PH.D, JD, discussing why people resist psychotherapy and other forms of self help. Her explanations resonated with me, so I decided to expand on them in this article. There is such humanity in fearing and avoiding an unknown process like therapy. After all, why would you go talk to a complete stranger about your problems? The ideas below are universal, so you may recognize yourself or someone you know! It’s my hope that after reading this, people will be more willing to reach out for help if they need it! So without further ado…5 reasons people resist therapy.
1. I can’t let ’em see me sweat!
Quite frankly, many folks are embarrassed or ashamed to ask for help. I have had clients tell me things like ” I manage people all day long at work. I should be able to manage my drinking too ,” I am an adult now. Why am I still having a hard time with this” or “Other people have it worse than me. I’m just whining.” Maybe you were raised to believe that asking for help means you are lazy, stupid, or a failure. But the truth is that EVERYONE, no matter your race, age, job status or education level, needs assistance from time to time. We are created to be in relationship with each other, and healing does not occur in a vacuum. Therapy can be a safe place to start getting a different perspective on a challenging issue, or a recurring pattern. Your thoughts and fears are pretty common, and a good therapist will not judge you; they will simply help you explore what is blocking you so you can move forward in a healthy way.
2. The “F” word
Thats right, I’m talking about feelings. We all have them, and most of us avoid them like the plague! While it may seem easier in the moment to eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, those pesky feelings don’t go anywhere. They leak out , often in the form of physical symptoms, addictions, anxiety, depression, misplaced anger, or relationships problems, to name a few. People are often afraid that once they open the floodgates to their emotions, they will be too overwhelming and unmanageable. I often hear clients tell me that they will never be able to stop crying if they start. I love the saying “What we resists, persists” Simply put, the more we ignore, minimize, or prevent access to our feelings, the bigger they get and the more trouble they create in our lives. Acknowledging and feeling emotions releases them, so we can let them go and move on.
3. This isn’t gonna take too long, is it?
Our world moves at warp speed. We are used to instant gratification. We want results faster, better, and with minimal effort on our part. Therapy is a powerful, wonderful process that does not work overnight. It requires you to “suit up and show up”, invest in the sessions and do the work. It is not as glamorous as a new car, or as exciting as a new Ipad shipped right to your door. Emotional healing requires dedication and commitment. You may not see instant results. But you will see them. And the good news is that the changes people make in therapy are far more lasting and sustainable than the buzz you get from checking your Facebook news feed constantly.
4. Vegas, yes! Therapy, not so much
Many, many people are taught at a young age that investing time, effort and money into their own growth and happiness is selfish. This belief stops a great number of potential clients from ever engaging in therapy. The story people tell themselves is that they can’t afford therapy, or the workshop, or the retreat, etc. It’s too frivolous, unimportant, or a waste of perfectly good money. Those same people may spend the money sessions cost on lattes at Starbucks, a new purse, or a concert ticket. It is more culturally acceptable to invest in our entertainment and comfort than our healing. Yet those things are fleeting, leaving us empty, regretful, and unfulfilled. Your emotional well being is worth committing to. Enough said.
5. Mirror, mirror on the wall, will therapy work for me after all?
When you purchase something tangible like a product, it often comes with a 100% money back guarantee. If it does not work, you send it back to the manufacturer. People often want this same assurance with therapy. However, therapy is a complex, interdependent relationship between you and the therapist. You have to do your part in order for it to “work” for you. Sometimes, clients leave therapy after just a few sessions, only to return later. Invariably, they tell me they expected therapy to magically make life better, but did not want to take ownership in the process. While I cannot guarantee that therapy will “work” for you, I can promise that you will get as much out of it as you put into it.
Making the decision to commit to your own emotional growth is extremely powerful. A therapist’s office is a neutral place to explore your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and stories about yourself. An effective therapist will partner with you, support you, and challenge you in a non-judgmental, compassionate way. They will help you embrace the parts of you that you struggle to love, acknowledge and build on the strengths you have, and show you how to lovingly heal your relationship with yourself. Magic and miracles flow easily from this place of self love, kindness, and forgiveness. So go! Take the leap. Reach out, invest in yourself and open your heart to the amazing possibilities that are waiting for you!