I’m lying down in my bed, thinking and just thinking about everything that’s going wrong in my life. I remember a friend told me to see a therapist. Does she think I’m crazy? Oh, no! That’s not right. I think I can go for therapy, yes, I should!
[The following night] Ah it was so busy today, I’ll definitely book an appointment tomorrow!
[A week from then] I want to go for therapy but I just don’t have time. What will I even talk about now? It’s been so many days since all of that happened. Do I even need therapy now?
Sounds familiar? That’s okay, you are not alone!
Therapy as a concept is still new to most people. Because of which, even thinking of being in therapy comes with a lot of uncertainty and can be very intimidating. This doesn’t mean if you know how therapy works or are a therapist yourself, it ‘should’ be easier for you to start therapy. We are all human beings, who fear being vulnerable, irrespective of our academic or professional background. Lack of knowledge can make it even harder to set the right expectations.
Let’s break it down to understand better! Imagine starting tomorrow your manager asks you to change your working hours to later time in the day, or you are shifting to a new city for your studies or you just try to change your routine to make time for working out. While these changes may or may not be beneficial for you in the long run, trying to change does not come easy to us. We like being in a set routine, in a comfortable environment, our safe space and with the people that make us feel good. Having to change even the slightest thing about this, can be unsettling in the beginning. So finding it difficult to start therapy is completely valid, because we know we are wanting to change something either about ourselves, our life or how we perceive ourselves and/or the situation we are in.
Now that we have established that it’s okay to not be able to start therapy in the first go because of anticipation of change being one of the limiting factors, it’s also important to know about other possible factors that play a role in this challenge -
Therapy is a space for YOU, and that can make you uncomfortable too!
A lot of people have been devoid of having a safe space to talk about them and their problems openly. And when they think about therapy as a space that focuses on them alone, it can seem very intimidating and uncomfortable, because they are not used to that kind of attention and also they feel lost as to what to talk about exactly.
Feeling unaware of what and how to start their first session.
Opening up to someone about your problems is not easy. On top of that, having to figure out where to start from, what to say first, not wanting to sound ‘silly’ for their problems, not knowing how to explain their problems - all these thoughts and questions can act as a huge barrier in taking that first step.
Fear of judgement and confidentiality.
What if the therapist doesn’t understand my problem or thinks I am too weak to be sad about this? What if they tell my parents or employer? It’s very natural to have this fear in the beginning, especially when this is the kind of response we have got in the past for sharing our problems with someone.
Endless ‘What ifs’
What if this therapist isn’t the right one for me?
What if therapy doesn’t work for me?
What if I share too much with my therapist in the first session?
What if the therapist doesn’t want to work with me?
Questions like these, to which we may never get a certain answer until we actually experience it ourselves, creep into our mind and take us down this thought spiral, which leads to no conclusion, and just fear and confusion.
Fear of judgement from peers and family
Therapy still has a lot of stigma attached to it, and if the people around us are not really supportive of the ‘idea’ of therapy, it can be very difficult to go for it. The fear of being judged and ridiculed for seeking help can be a huge barrier too.
BUT, now that we know the possible reasons why people may find themselves stuck with the idea of seeking therapy and actually going for it, what do we do now? How do we come out of this? Here’s what you need to do -
Try to understand what is the reason for YOU that’s stopping you from starting with therapy. The reasons mentioned are just the ones that are most commonly observed and not an exhaustive list. Explore your reasons first.
Accept and acknowledge how subconsciously or consciously you are delaying seeking help for this particular reason.
Give yourself time and see what’s the best that you can do. It could also simply be talking to a friend about these doubts, if that helps!
While all these reasons discussed above are completely valid and normal to happen with anyone, here’s something you should know about therapy and your relationship with a therapist:
Yes, therapy does mean inviting change in various different aspects, but that change is very gradual, and it’s you who drives that change in your life at your own pace. The therapist is there to help you walk through the process. In order to heal, accept yourself and grow, you need a dedicated space for yourself that just focuses on you. Even the discomfort in that space is telling you something about yourself. And it’s okay if you don’t know all the answers, if you don’t know where to start from, or you don’t know what to expect from this process, your therapist is there to help you figure all of that out. Therapy is not about knowing all the right answers, but to explore all the different answers that are otherwise blurry to us. Your therapist is a trained professional who is there to provide you with that non-judgemental and safe space. And like any other human relationships, this therapeutic relationship also needs time to build trust. Fighting your own ‘what ifs’ and people’s disapproval of therapy is draining, making it even more necessary for you to talk about it, because you know what’s best for you, even more than your therapist.