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  • Megan Johnson, Ph.D.

Overcoming your fear of going to therapy

Are you considering therapy but feel nervous about taking the plunge? Maybe you don’t know what to expect from therapy, or you are wondering if therapy can even help you. Or maybe calling a stranger or meeting new people makes you shake in your boots. Whatever it is that causing you to take pause before starting therapy, know that your feelings are normal. Of course you feel some anxiety about telling your innermost thoughts and feelings to a stranger! Here are some common fears that keep people from seeking  therapy and how you can ease your fears about starting.

“I don’t know what to expect.”

The relationship between therapist and client is unique and unlike other relationships in our lives. We have different a framework in this relationship than we do in our families, friendships, romantic relationships, and business partnerships. If you have never been to therapy before, or have had an unpleasant experience in therapy previously, you may be wondering what to expect. A lot of anxiety is rooted in fear of the unknown. By increasing your knowledge, you will feel more at ease. The best place to start is to read the “what to expect” portion on my page. But maybe you have more specific questions such as, “What time do you offer appointments?” or “How much do you charge?” or “Where do I park?” Those are all great questions and can be answered during the free 15-minute phone consultations I offer. There is no such thing as a stupid question, so ask away!

“My therapist won’t understand me.”

Many people worry that because their therapist is not in their shoes, they won’t be able to relate or help. For example, I once had a client tell me, “You don’t have children, so you cannot possibly help me work through my parenting anxiety.” She was partially right – I am not a mom. But I don’t help my clients based on my experience. I offer help to my clients based on my training and understanding of psychological principles that apply to allhumans. Furthermore, therapy is more about the relationship that we create together in the room and less about my particular gender, age, marital status, ethnicity, religion, or any other feature that makes up my identity. Yes, those things are important and do influence who I am and how I interact with the world. But they are not the focus of your treatment. No matter who you select as your therapist, you will be different from them in some way because you are a unique individual. Embrace those differences and discuss them in order to develop a better understanding of who you are and how you view life.

The best part about therapy is there is no topic that is off limits, so if you are concerned your therapist won't understand some aspect of your identity, bring it up during your session.

“I’m worried my therapist will judge me.”

Attending therapy and sharing your most intimate thoughts and feelings is a very vulnerable action, so it is only natural that you would have some hesitation about your therapist’s response. But know that your therapist is there to help you and support you. Day in and day out, your therapist works with people who have concerns and struggles, just like you. They know that you are human and don’t expect you to be perfect or having it all together.Your therapist has spent many years in school and clinical training learning about people and what makes them tick, so they are well acquainted with the fact that no one is perfect. In fact, they have probably previously sought or are currently in therapy themselves. All of these things mean that they get it. It may even be helpful to share with your therapist why you are nervous, so these issues can be addressed head on from the get-go.

“I can’t afford therapy.”

Therapy is an investment in your well-being and your future, both of which are priceless. Many mental health issues and daily worries can cause long-term damage to our relationships, our physical health, and our emotional well-being. I like to think of therapy like preventative maintenance on a car. When you notice that check engine light go on, you take your car to the shop to see what is wrong and fix the problem. If you don’t, your car will keep running for the time being, but it could cause further and more expensive damage to your car down the road. Therapy is similar.

If something is nagging at you or you have tried on your own to fix things and you still feel like your emotional check engine light is on, it might be time to seek therapy from a trained professional.

And although therapy is not free, it does not have to be extremely expensive. My colleagues and I provide our clients a Super Bill at the end of each month, which can be submitted to your insurance for reimbursement. In the past, clients have had a lot of success in getting their therapy covered by their insurance using this method. Your employer may also offer means for covering the cost of your treatment. These concerns can certainly be discussed during our free 15-minute consultation prior to starting therapy.

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