1. Do I really feel bad enough to need therapy?
You might be struggling with a relationship. Or maybe things don’t always work the way they should all the time. You may have felt blue or down, but you aren’t going to hurt yourself. Perhaps you worry a great deal about things you know you can’t do anything about. Your sleep is lousy, and you just don’t have much energy. Everyone feels some of these things some of the time – that is normal. We all wonder how bad we should feel in order to ask for help. I think this depends a lot on how resourceful you are. Do you have ways you effectively deal with stress? If so, are these ways still working for you? Will the stressor pass soon? Do you have the kind of support from those around you that you need? Do you get most of your needs met? The answers to these questions will provide another perspective based on your own abilities. Sometimes we fall away from our coping techniques, or we don’t have too many we rely on. If you are needing new tools to deal with life or if you are feeling overwhelmed this is probably the time to seek therapy.
2. I’m not sure I can trust a total stranger.
It would be hard to imagine anyone being able to talk with a total stranger about their innermost thoughts and feelings. Trusting someone with our vulnerable side is difficult. I believe there are three elements of developing this relationship: non-judging, honesty, and compassion. Theses are the elements of therapy that allow a therapeutic relationship to be built. Based on this and trusting the confidential nature of this relationship will allow you to talk openly with someone who will treat you with kindness and honesty.
3. Therapy is really expensive.
The truth is therapy can be financially expensive. In the long run it may not be as expensive as not getting the help you need. Excessive stress can take a toll on your health, your relationships, your work, and your families. The cost of these parts of your life when they fall apart can be far greater than the short term cost of getting the mental health care you need. We will often use a credit card or take a loan to buy things that bring us temporary pleasure, but our emotional well being can be a better long term investment.
4. It’s not me – my spouse/family/kid/boss needs to change.
Whenever we experience a problem in life, our first thought is often that the offending person needs to change. This, in fact, may be the case. So we go about the effort to change them. What tends to happen in this case is that we experience more frustration and become angry because they do not change – no matter how logical we might be in convincing them it would be in their best interest. The truth of the matter is the world is unlikely to change in the direction we would prefer. Therapy in this case is about coping with our world the way it is. This is a process of acceptance and awareness in managing our own thoughts and behavior and helping ourselves to change. I think if your desire is to change others, while it is understandable, it is likely to be less effective than changing yourself. Family therapy and couples therapy is a bit different. In these cases we work together to find ways to help meet the goals that work for all concerned. In these types of therapy, the ideas of all involved inform what change is needed for life to improve.
5. Therapy is for crazy people and I’m not crazy.
Years ago I was involved in a large research study in which we screened the participants based on a number of important factors. One of the factors was mental health. Issues included history of severe mental disorders, alcoholism, family problems, anxiety, depression, etc. All participants had to be balanced with respect to these concerns. Not that they had to be problem free, but they needed to be in a state of equilibrium at the beginning of the study. During the nine years of the study at least half of the participants sought out therapy with me. Some came for long term treatment, some just a couple sessions, but half sought help. Therapy is not just for severe mental illness it is also to help those who are struggling with life’s everyday issues and don’t want to struggle so hard to figure it out alone. Therapy is not just for crazy people anymore.