Going to therapy can be intimidating. You might fear that it will be uncomfortable, embarrassing, or simply unhelpful. You may be afraid that your therapist is just going to sit there and tell you what to do. You may have been fighting against feeling “broken” for so long and you fear that going to therapy is going to cement the fact that something is fundamentally wrong with you.
This could not be further from the truth.
If your fear of going to therapy stems from the fact that you believe it would be admitting there is something wrong with you, I have a message for you: There is nothing wrong with you! If you feel “off” because of your symptoms, then good! Your body and mind are doing what they need to in order to let you know that you are suffering and something isn’t working for you. Seeking therapy to explore the root of your pain is a perfectly sane and appropriate thing to do in response.
Therapy is a service, just like any other – getting a coffee from your favorite barista, calling a plumber, getting your nails done, getting a haircut – all of these are services that you presumably seek out and pay for in order to make your life more wonderful in a certain way.
You wouldn’t go to get your haircut because you think there’s something wrong with the you – you would just, go, because that’s what people do when they want shorter hair or less split ends. It’s a way to achieve your goal. This may seem like an oversimplified analogy to use for going to therapy, such that the actual act of cutting hair is not so similar to the actual treatment that occurs within therapy, but the process of seeking a service to meet your needs is the same. There is something that isn’t working for you in your life, and you are seeking a way to address it and change it.
You can also think of it like going to see a doctor – you wouldn’t go to see your doctor because you feel as though you are in perfect health. Usually there is a symptom, a discomfort, or a future fear that is bringing you there. You are looking for an answer and assistance in returning to a healthy state of being, or to a new, healthier state of being that you previously hadn’t known. It doesn’t mean that there is something fundamentally wrong with you if you are sick; it just means that part of your body is out of balance.
Those who seek therapy have something in their life that is not functioning in a manner that they would describe as healthy. Severity of symptoms can range from discomfort to distress to impairment, and can be present in one or multiple areas of your life (e.g. relationships, school, work, etc.).
The cause of your symptoms can vary, but there is always a cause. And the cause is never that you are broken. Oftentimes symptoms can be traced back to defining events in our lives, or a series of events, or a period of our lives when we felt helpless, rejected, or in danger. They can be traced to current thoughts, beliefs, worldviews, emotional responses, and body sensations. Figuring out how to pinpoint your symptoms in order to treat them is also part of the therapeutic process, as well as what your ultimate goals are.
If achieving perfect mental health were easy, there would not be hordes of individuals studying to become therapists and counselors. There wouldn’t be crisis lines, treatment modalities, or a month deemed “Mental Health Awareness Month” (May!). Just as one can learn to be proactive about taking care of their physical health (through healthy eating, sleeping, exercise, etc.) one can also learn how to improve and support their mental well-being. Going to see a therapist can be part of that process, and it doesn’t have to be intimidating.
Written by Nina Tomkiewicz, LCSW
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