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Common barriers to seeking therapy

Victoria Healey
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Last Updated on October 13, 2023 by It’s Complicated

There are many reasons why people avoid seeking therapy and begin their healing journey. Even though therapy is intended to be a safe and confidential space for you to explore your thoughts and feelings – without fear of judgment, starting the process can feel scary for a number of reasons.

Many of the reasons for avoiding therapy can be categorized into three main groups: resource restrictions, fear, and preconceived beliefs. All the reasons for hesitation are valid and we hope to address some of these barriers and share some ways to start challenging them and offer feasible solutions. Seeking therapy is a courageous step towards taking care of your mental health.

Resource-based barriers 

Both a financial and time investment is often required when undergoing therapy. The reality is therapy can be expensive, and many people may not be able to afford it or have insurance that covers it. 

One way this issue is being addressed, to make therapy more affordable and accessible is with the offering of sliding scale pricing systems. What this means is that therapists set up a fee range for their services based on the client’s income and ability to pay. This allows for clients who have lower incomes or financial difficulties to be charged a lower fee than clients who have higher incomes. Sliding scale therapy is designed to ensure that mental health services are accessible to people from all income levels, regardless of their financial circumstances. This can be particularly helpful for people who are uninsured or underinsured and may not have access to mental health services otherwise.

Another resource limitation is time. Therapy requires a significant time commitment, and plain and simple, people may feel they don’t have the time to commit to therapy, especially if they have busy schedules or other responsibilities. Issues of time and accessibility are being helped tremendously by the existence of online therapy.

Furthermore, people living in more remote areas may not have access to mental health services or may have difficulty finding a therapist who specializes in their specific needs. Similarly, individuals who do not speak the local language may have difficulty finding a therapist who speaks their language. There is also an even larger problem with a lack of representation in those more remote areas.

With the rise of online therapy platforms, these accessibility issues have been greatly reduced. Platforms have built the selection process with these in mind, with filtering options such as identity, location, and language. Therapy seekers can use these to help them find the best match. The limitations and barriers that existed by needing to go to a practitioner’s office for sessions have been greatly alleviated by online therapy.

Fear-based hesitations 

Many people feel nervous about starting therapy because they are unsure of what to expect. They worry about having to talk about personal issues or about how they will be perceived by the therapist. Some people may be afraid of what they will discover about themselves during therapy, and of the unknown. The existence of fear can be a huge deterrent and is absolutely understandable. Vulnerability and change are two key ingredients to therapy. Both of which are not devoid of courage. Being fearful of these uncomfortable emotions is normal. Confronting the discomfort is where the growth happens.

Fear of vulnerability: Therapy often requires you to be vulnerable and to share your deepest thoughts and feelings. This can be intimidating and scary, especially for those who have difficulty trusting others or who have been hurt in the past.

Fear of change: Therapy can be a catalyst for change, and some people may be afraid of what changes may come as a result of therapy – and some people may be afraid they are not ready or willing to make a change yet.

It’s important to remember that therapy is a safe and confidential space where you can explore your thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment. A skilled therapist can help you navigate these fears and work towards positive change. Addressing these fears is part of the process.

Pre-conceived beliefs 

Denial: You may not want to admit you are experiencing any problems or issues or may not believe that therapy can help you.

Belief in self-reliance: You may believe that you should be able to handle your problems on your own and may not want to rely on others for help.

Feeling ashamed: You may feel ashamed or embarrassed about your problems and may not want to admit that you need help.

Lack of trust: It can be difficult for you to open up to a stranger, especially if you have trust issues or have been hurt in the past.

Often times people avoid therapy because they believe problems will go away on their own and they are in no need of professional help to deal with them.

How to overcome mental barriers

Challenging your fears and starting therapy can be a difficult but rewarding process. Here are some steps you can take to help overcome your fears and mental barriers.

Take some time to identify what specifically is making you feel scared about therapy. Are you afraid of being judged, vulnerable, or something else?

If the idea of going to therapy feels overwhelming, start small by reaching out to a therapist or mental health professional and scheduling an initial consultation or session. Take a friend or family member. You may feel more comfortable attending your first therapy session with a trusted friend or family member who can offer support.

Be honest with your therapist. If you feel scared or anxious during your therapy sessions, it’s important to be honest with your therapist about how you’re feeling. They can help you work through these emotions and develop coping strategies. Working with a qualified, skilled, and committed therapist can help you navigate these fears and work toward positive change, or guide your self-exploration. 

If the cost of therapy is preventing you from starting, see if your company offers therapy sessions as part of their Employee Benefits or Employee Assistance Programs. Often these are not actively advertised. Asking your Human Resource teams about them may prompt their initiation based on seeing there is a need from within the organization.

And finally, don’t forget to celebrate and recognize your progress – no matter how small. Starting therapy is a big step, and each session is an important step toward healing and growth.

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