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4 common fears about trying therapy and my responses as a psychologist

Updated: Jan 18, 2022

Approaching a therapist is hard! Even if you feel pretty sure that it would be helpful you might have niggling concerns which prevent you from taking that final step. Here are a few reasons my clients have told me they almost didn't reach out and my responses.

1) My problems aren’t big enough or bad enough to bother a psychologist with!

If you are experiencing an urge to explore your past or improve your current situation then this is enough, and is probably a sign that there is a niggle that needs to be aired anyway. Having space to understand your thoughts, feelings and behavioural patterns and link these to your early life experiences, present day circumstances and life-values will help you to be more self-aware and able to make more conscious decisions. It’s probably helpful to know that I do not work with diagnoses; I work with the difficulties and goals that someone brings.

Often I find that someone will ‘finally’ come to therapy when something big happens to them, something that everyone can agree is traumatic and therefore ‘warrants’ therapy. But after working on this it will become clearer that their past has impacted on them more than this recent event, but they’ve not given themselves permission to explore this before now.

2) I can’t burden someone with my past...

If this is your main thought, then it probably means that sharing what has happened to you with a compassionate person who can listen and support you is exactly what you need. You’ve probably had this fear of burdening others for a long time, and it will be wearing you down. Psychologists have systems set up (called supervision) to manage intense sessions. Our training also prepares us to hear distressing material, where we learn to practice the types of self-soothing tools that we teach our clients to cope with emotional intensity.

3) What if she doesn’t believe me?

This fear usually stems from the traumatic past that you are coming with, perhaps you have not been believed before or you were told you were bad or a liar when you tried to access support. Typical reasons why you might not have been believed in the past include 1) the person you told may not have known how to support you, or what to do with the truth so would not have wanted to deal with it; 2) the person (or organisation/family/system) you told had too much to lose by helping the truth to come out; 3) the person couldn’t believe that bad things like that happen in the world.

As your psychologist I have nothing to gain by not believing. I only see the distress you’ve been left with as a result of difficulties in your life, and your wish to overcome these.

4) I’m not worth it

Therapy involves investing time and money in yourself so this worry can be a big obstacle for lots of people. I believe that emotional health is undervalued in our society, for example most people will spend far more on hair-styling, exercise classes and health foods than they will on their mental health. But if you really don’t feel that you are worth it then it sounds like you are struggling with self-compassion and there are probably other areas of your life where this shows up too. Could this also be getting in the way of your hopes and dreams? Many people I work with benefit from training in self-compassion, so it is often something I work on with people in therapy.

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