John cringed at seeing himself as "someone who goes to therapy," so days of deliberation became months of fear. He isn't alone. In my work, I discuss fear of therapy early, because recognizing our fears helps us to slay them. Here are the seven biggest fears and how to overcome them.
#1: "There's something wrong with me."
If your dearest friend told you that she feels depressed, would you think of her as "the depressed one" henceforth? But I know, we have fears around diagnoses.
A diagnosis is a tool to understand our experiences and guide treatment. Someone who feels depressed is likely to think negatively about themselves, the world and the future. Knowing this, we can identify and tackle the vicious cycles that underlie such thoughts. For some, having a "label" is the Eureka! moment that explains why they are the way they are. It tells them that they're not alone. Indeed, depression is the common cold of mental health.
Bottomline: You can become the diagnosis. Or you can heal the psychological equivalent of your cold.
#2: "How do I tell my friends and family?"
You want to tell them because (1) they're important to you, (2) you'd like their support, (3) you'd like them to stop doing something that worsens your difficulties -- such as offering you substances. But you can't put it into words.
I've done the work for you. Here are three scripts. P.S. They work. And you can use this for any kind of professional that you are seeing.
#3: "If I'm ashamed of myself, won't you judge me?"
I take people for who they are. I'm mostly aware of my prejudices and weed them out. As your therapist, I'm here to guide you, not judge you. My clients describe working with me as being in a safe and non-judgmental space.
When prejudices arise, I reflect upon them with my mentors. That's how I grow as a human being.
#4: "Seeking help means I'm weak."
A friend of mine shared his wisdom about therapy and coaching.
"If you want to get better at tennis, get a coach. If you want to get better at your relationship, get a therapist. You could read every book and get overwhelmed. Or you can go to someone trained who can give you a system. Do you really want to spend another 10 years stumbling and fumbling?"
I've not found a better analogy. And really, what does strong mean? Doing it all alone? So why do top athletes and successful people hire coaches? From the beginning, my therapy is aimed at teaching you to become your own therapist/guru/insert-title-of-choice. So you know that no matter what happens, you've got the tools to use.
Fast Fact: Many mental health professionals undertake therapy as part of their training.
#5: "I'm LGBT/introverted... you won't understand me."
Society frowns upon so much. Socially awkward. Not heterosexual. Different spiritual beliefs. Sexually deviant. These labels and expectations make people feel ashamed of their uniqueness.
If you're ready and willing to work on yourself, that's all we need. I'll ask you questions to help me understand you better. My clients say that these questions also help them to understand themselves better. My clients and friends have different sexual orientations, lifestyle choices, and are from different cultures.
Bottomline being, you and I, we're both human beings. Fellow life forms.
#6: "I'll do things wrongly... again. I'm a failure."
There are some things you may do wrongly. Like breathing through your mouth, therefore hyperventilating and wondering why the breathing exercise didn't calm you down. There are things where there aren't right or wrong answers. Like identifying your thoughts or feelings.
You can resign yourself to doing something "wrongly" and giving up. Or adopt a curious mindset, asking yourself, "What can I learn from this?" Like with the breathing, you can reflect that "This is how I normally breathe when afraid. Throughout the day I'll practice breathing through the nose. When I'm stressed, I'll be accustomed to breathing correctly".
Small shifts in mindset. Big differences in results. Which will you choose?
#7: "People will think I'm mad."
At least one in two people will experience depression at some point in life, because life happens. But why do we discriminate against depression, not cold? One of my favorite things that psychologist Dr. Guy Winch says is that when we cut ourselves, we know how to dress it. Yet we don't practice emotional hygiene; we let our psychological scars fester. Because we are prejudiced towards physical health over mental health, even though they are interlinked.
- For every person who worries about the stigma and thus doesn't seek help, we prolong suffering.
- For every person who initially worries and later confides in a friend who says "ME TOO!" the relief is shared. And they realice that sharing is powerful and there's nothing to be ashamed of. (True story. I've heard it over and over again.)
Around you now, 10 percent of children are experiencing mental health difficulties; 17 percent of adults are battling anxiety and depression. It goes beyond famous people like JK Rowling, Stephen Fry and Catherine Zeta-Jones speaking out about mental health difficulties. It takes those of us who shun mental health as taboo to question if these taboos are really ours. And to ask ourselves, "If this was my dearest friend suffering, would I think (s)he was mad?"
If you're suffering, you're not mad. You're a human who's acknowledged their suffering. Recognition is the first step to stepping into your power.
Do you relate to these fears of therapy? I have a few questions for you, to help others experiencing the same. (1) Have you overcome any of these fears successfully? (2) What other kind of fear of therapy do you struggle with? Leave a comment; I read every one. (Original article here.)