Every person can benefit from having some outside support at some point in their lives.
Most of us need it more than we like to admit, but the truth is there’s nothing we’re really meant to do alone. But, even though we know that humans are social creatures, who thrive in reciprocal supportive communities, it’s still so hard for so many of us to ask for help–especially therapy–when we need it.
We can see that is especially true when it comes to therapy. If most of us are hesitant to ask for help when we need it in our day to day lives, taking the step to get professional support from a therapist can feel downright terrifying.
So what is it holding us back from asking for help, even when we know we might need it? Here are 5 common reasons people avoid therapy:
Fear of being “broken”
There’s a common misconception that you go to therapy to “fix” something. However, this isn’t true! You’re not broken, so you don’t need fixing. Therapy exists to help you identify where you need support, and helps give you the tools to thrive in your life, with consideration for your needs, desires, and values. It’s not about turning you into a person with no flaws, or trying to get rid of the “flaws” you currently have. Therapy gives you a space to sit and be wholly yourself, with no judgement. And from there, you can start to identify your own needs and where you need support.
Social stigma associated with therapy:
While conversations on mental health are becoming more and more mainstream, that doesn’t necessarily make it easier to come forward and announce that you think you need more support than what you’re currently experiencing. And even though mental health is a more popular topic of conversation, the stigma associated with mental health care isn’t completely gone. There’s still fear that if you go to therapy you must be “crazy” or judgment from peers or relatives who don’t understand mental health as well.
We think we should be able to handle things ourselves:
We live in a very individualist culture. The “American dream” is a dream of self sufficiency–where you can take yourself from a point of extreme struggle to a point of extreme success, just through hard work and determination. However, life is more complicated than that! And 100% self sufficiency just isn’t possible–nor should it be! We all need support, compassion, and someone who really wants to listen to us.
We see vulnerability as weakness:
It is scary to be vulnerable! And therapy is a space where you are encouraged to let yourself be vulnerable, and share what you don’t feel like you can share elsewhere. But our culture often associates expressing vulnerability or strong emotions of any kind as some sort of weakness. So most of us are taught to mask our feelings, and never let it show if we’re feeling vulnerable. Because of that, trying to adjust to therapy, where vulnerability is necessary for honest progress, can feel deeply uncomfortable and even wrong–which makes us not want to do it!
Our problems “aren’t bad enough” for therapy:
This is such a common one–we think that because someone has it worse than us, that we don’t deserve help. But that isn’t how help works! You receiving help for what you’re struggling with doesn’t mean you’re taking help away from someone who is struggling with something different. And you not helping yourself in no way helps someone who has it worse than you. Instead of thinking “well, things could be worse,” try to flip it. Things could be better, and you deserve the chance to make that happen!