I’ve talked to a fair share of people — those who have been to counseling before and those who have never set foot in a therapist’s office — who break into a cold sweat when thinking about talking with a therapist. I have been in the client’s chair myself, and my experiences in counseling deeply inspired me to want to help others by becoming a therapist. I believe in the power of therapeutic change and benefit and I’ve also “been there” and empathize with how daunting it might seem to enact change in one’s life.
Anxiety and nervousness can precede a therapy appointment. They can cause you to drive around the block a few times before finally parking and walking into the office. I know that sometimes it can feel worse after the appointment, instead of better. I know that discomfort might be part of the protocol. I understand that talking about personal matters can feel foreign, vulnerable, and risky.
So why do it?? Because change can happen. Steps can be taken, with the trust and security of a therapeutic relationship, to achieve personal goals that bring peace, happiness, and clarity to one’s life. This is absolutely possible. But, you may wonder, what do I have to risk in order to achieve that change? These common fears may keep some folks from calling a therapist and today I wanted to “normalize” those fears — and talk about what to do to overcome them. Because everyone deserves a fair shot at a balanced and healthy life.
In working with clients in recovery from eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia, or binge eating disorder, I often encounter some anxiety around change. Through my own recovery from an eating disorder, I went through various stages of change and different levels of readiness for change. I discovered that I needed to follow my own path, and it may take me up hills and down valleys; most significantly I found out that therapy, while terrifying at times, helped me make the changes that got me to the place I am today — healthy and fully in recovery!
Here are three of the biggest fears that those with an eating disorder who are contemplating therapy may experience. These can also be widened to anyone who is approaching the decision to pursue therapy:
Three Big Fears About Going to Therapy – and how to conquer them:
1.) My therapist is going to force me to change. This is not only a fear about therapy, but also a misconception. A therapist will never (should never) force someone to change. We cannot. It is your life and you make your own choices. Sometimes when health issues are highly concerning, a client may enter a treatment center where he/she must follow certain rules. These rules are for the therapeutic benefit of the client, and while the rules may limit behaviors that are self-destructive, it is ultimately up to the client to open his/herself up to changing thoughts, behaviors, and ways of relating to self and others. If you enter therapy, you are in charge. This isn’t to say that your therapist is not going to challenge some things you do or say, but confrontation is a therapeutic tool that is also for the good of the client. Therapists point out what we sometimes cannot admit to ourselves.
2.) If I open up and am honest, my therapist is going to judge me. Honesty is one of the biggest risks in therapy — because being honest makes us vulnerable, possibly subject to judgment. Honesty is also a vehicle of change, as it allows us to connect with how we truly feel and explore those feelings. A trusting, solid, connected therapeutic relationship can foster a healing and safe space for honesty and this is one of the cornerstones of therapy. A therapist’s job is to be a non-judgemental and non-biased professional whom you can feel comfortable talking with about personal and sometimes painful subjects. If you have concerns about judgment in the therapy room, this is certainly a topic that should be discussed.
3.) If I go to therapy, I will have to keep going for the rest of my life. Sometimes people are afraid of “opening a can of worms”, and feel it’s safer to keep the genie in the bottle. I can relate to this. When I share some of my personal therapy experiences with clients, they sometimes ask me how long it took me in therapy to feel healthy and stable enough to go out on my own. As everyone’s path is different, the length of therapy might be conditional based on each person’s needs and goals. For some, a few sessions might alleviate some presenting symptoms. For others, a few weeks, or months. In the initial few sessions, I go over goals with my clients and we keep track of how progress is going as we move on. The goal of therapy is to help you find tools and strengths that you can utilize whenever you need them, and to empower you to know that you can walk on your own two feet. So, while I empathize with the fear of “being in therapy forever”, this is not ultimately healthy, and an experienced therapist should continue the conversation with you about how you are feeling as therapy moves forward.
Do you relate to any of these common therapy worries? Entering into therapy is an investment in yourself — your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. To find balance and health, this may involve talking about uncomfortable things and confronting destructive coping mechanisms. As someone who has gone through therapy and sometimes still checks in with my therapist, I can attest to the benefits of this process. You are worth the investment!
If you or anyone you know is thinking about “dipping your toe” into therapy, please contact me and I’d be happy to tell you more about the process and what to expect: 720-340-1443 or firstname.lastname@example.org.