Therapy has been shown to help with a range of issues, from sexual dysfunction to depression, but many folks who could benefit never access the help. Last week I wrote about two common factors that stop people from getting help – a lack of money and time- and how to work through them. This week I’m going to discuss a couple of emotional barriers that can also be addressed and overcome.
The first is shame.
For some, seeking help is a barrier because it triggers feelings of shame, which is that unpleasant state during which you feel unworthy and like you don’t belong. Physically, you might experience an increased heart rate or difficulty breathing. If asking for help is a shame trigger for you, you’re a lot less likely to seek it out. Sometimes negative thoughts cause shame, such as the belief that going to therapy means something must be wrong with you.
How to work through it:
- Dig deeper. What negative beliefs do you have about people who need help and ask for it? Ask yourself: Are these beliefs true? How do I know? Where do they come from?
- Next, get in touch with how the feeling of shame affects you physically. Where do you feel the shame in your body? Try gently, non-judgmentally noticing the shame, but then letting it go. If we don’t feed our feelings with our thoughts, they often naturally disappear within a few minutes.
- Finally, you can discuss your struggle with shame with a trusted friend or with a therapist. Internationally acclaimed therapist and speaker Brene Brown has written extensively about shame, and how simply shining the light on whatever is causing our own shame through talking about it openly with others can cause it to disappear. For more about shame, check out Brown’s Ted talk on the topic.
Another common issue stopping people from setting up their first therapy appointment is fear.
The therapeutic process is a vulnerable one in which you discuss some of your most personal issues with a professional. If you’re uncomfortable with vulnerability, this may deter you from seeking help. In addition, if you’ve never been to therapy before, you might also fear the unknown. You might wonder what the therapist’s office looks like, what the therapist is like. You might not know the rules about confidentiality, or worry that the therapist will judge you.
How to work through it:
- Ask questions! When you are setting up your first therapy appointment, you can ask your therapist what the appointment will be like. You can also look up information about privacy laws and the ethical guidelines therapists must follow. If you’re curious about those, you could read the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics. In case you don’t have time to read those, here’s a few facts that might help you feel more comfortable. Everything in counseling is subject to HIPAA laws and confidential unless you’re in danger of hurting yourself or someone else, or your disclose child abuse that is occurring. And, it is in the counseling profession’s code of ethics never to judge clients. Therapists are trained to offer nonjudgmental, empathic support to their clients.
- Finally, if you suspect that a deeper fear of vulnerability or interpersonal intimacy is causing your resistance to therapy, this is a great reason to set up your first appointment. Facing the fear may cause discomfort, but ultimately lead to your own personal growth. Use that insight to motivate you to actually get to therapy.
Check back next week for a final few barriers to seeking help, and some ideas for how to work through them. In the meantime, as always, feel free to reach out. (585) 294-4776.