National Mental Health Awareness Month may have passed, but the time is always right to talk about committing to therapy. Most of us are probably aware of the benefits of therapy. Though it’s not always an enjoyable or easy process, most of the time therapy is a helpful tool. It allows us the opportunity to figure out ourselves or things we’re facing. It can allow us to process difficult events and move forward. So I try to be observant when people I work with cancel an appointment by saying, “I’m too busy.”
Life can be extraordinarily demanding. Between work, chores, school, parenting commitments, relationships, extended family, travel, commuting, exercise, pets, and friendships (I could go on!), it’s not easy finding ten minutes to sit down and relax. So setting aside an hour or two for a therapy appointment may seem next to impossible. I get it.
But while we are a busy bunch, there ought to be enough time for therapy. After all, you scheduled it for a reason. So when the explanation, “I’m too busy for therapy,” pops up, I wonder if the person truly does have a scheduling issue—or if they may be avoiding committing to therapy.
Avoidance is a self-preservation technique that comes naturally to avoid danger (think fight, flight, or freeze). When issues in therapy start to get deep, many people choose to flee. In other words, they cancel their appointments.
Have you been avoiding therapy? Perhaps one of these justifications resonate with you:
1. “My schedule is hectic.”
This is a common reason for not committing to therapy. But if we don’t take care of ourselves first, we won’t have anything to give to others—partners, children, parents, coworkers, or friends. Prioritizing our self-care is not selfish. It’s necessary for our health and well-being. We are all worthy of self-love. You, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.
2. “Therapists are just out for money.”
Having a private practice is my source of income, that is true. However, I’d like to believe therapists are working in your best interest and will talk honestly about closing treatment when it is suitable. That said, it usually takes more than a couple of sessions to get into the essence of the problem. Expect to commit emotionally and financially to regular sessions for a time, at least in the beginning of the therapy process.
3. “I had a negative experience in therapy.”
I feel sad when I hear when people have had unpleasant experiences in the past. Unfortunately, these experiences do push many people away. It can be difficult to try counseling again. Finding a therapist who is the right fit for you is key. Therapists have different styles. An approach that worked for your brother or best friend might not work for you. Talk to your potential therapist on the phone or set up an initial consult and see how it feels. If something doesn’t feel right, then keep looking. It’s worth your time to find someone who’s the right fit.
4. “I’m too old to change.”
I do believe we can learn new skills and gain insight at any age. It may be true that the older we get, the more set we are in our ways. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make positive changes when we want to. A person who wants to learn to play the guitar at age 50 would take lessons and practice the new skills between lessons—just like a person of any age would do. The same principles apply when changing and improving behavior. I’ve seen people in their 70s seek therapy. Self-actualization is never complete!
5. “It’s too painful.”
I do believe we can learn new skills and gain insight at any age. It may be true that the older we get, the more set we are in our ways. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make positive changes when we want to.
I’ll tell you right now that therapy is not easy! Digging into the past to find explanations for our current behavior can be painful and emotional. But it can also be healing and restorative to our mental and physical health. Therapy can be compared to physical exercise: sometimes we look forward to it, and sometimes we dread it.
6.“I don’t like talking about my feelings.”
We learn how to problem-solve and communicate at an early age by watching adults around us cope with problems. If your parents didn’t model effective communication or shamed you for crying, acting out, or shouting when you were upset, you might have a difficult time confiding in others as an adult.
Humans experience various emotions. It’s unrealistic to expect ourselves to not feel or express them. It may be hard to talk about how you feel at first, but doing so often gets easier with time (and practice).
7. “Asking for help is a sign of weakness.”
If this is what you think, it’s likely you were taught at some point that having emotions is a weakness. Maybe you were told to “Suck it up!” or “Stop your crying!” or “Be a man!” Receiving messages like these in childhood can act as a roadblock. They can keep us from getting in touch with our feelings and communicating them as adults. Where does not wanting to be vulnerable come from for you?
The therapy office is a place where you can be vulnerable and express your thoughts and feelings without judgment. It’s a safe place where you can learn more about yourself, along with your behavior and emotions and how you can better express them in the world. Your therapist can validate your experience and also point out blind spots, from their perspective, and help you explore them. When you allow yourself to fully experience this process, you might feel relief, pride, and self-acceptance.
What’s keeping you from committing to therapy? If you aren’t currently working with a therapist, you can begin your search for a compassionate, qualified counselor here.
- DeAngelis, T. (2008, Jan.). The elephant in the office. Monitor on Psychology. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/jan08/elephant.aspx
- Risher, B. (2017, Nov. 16). 7 things you should know before your first therapy appointment. Self. Retrieved from https://www.self.com/story/first-therapy-appointment
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