To start therapy or not to start therapy? That’s a question I imagine many people are asking themselves in 2020.
There is a lot going on these days. Global upheaval may spark feelings of fear, hopelessness or what’s-the-point-ness that are new to you. It may exacerbate chronic mental health conditions, it may have you re-evaluating your personal relationships, and it may stir up past traumas you thought you’d fully processed. And that’s just how global upheaval may be affecting you. We have our personal versions too, not to mention living with the ongoing human condition that craves meaning, connection and a sense of place and purpose.
Therapy is a place to explore and address all of these things, and more. So why would the answer to ‘start therapy?’ ever be no? There are many reasons we tell ourselves. I hear them often as a therapist and I felt them myself before starting therapy. They’re all legitimate concerns, but they also act as a barrier to stop us making the leap to start therapy – which may well be a leap into more balanced, peaceful, happy life.
I shouldn’t have therapy because…
It can’t change anything anyway
There is a lot therapy can’t change. The only thing it is likely to change is your understanding of yourself, your actions, reactions and interactions. But that is huge!
Part of this process of change is creating a cohesive narrative of your life and picture of yourself. Another aspect of therapy is allowing time and space for you to feel and observe your emotions; to correctly identify them, to see patterns in when they arise and to discover what you can do to soothe distress. Therapy is also a place to understand why you behave as you do – to learn how these habits served you well in the past, and how they are getting in the way of things now.
And remember, you can always ask to schedule a review with your therapist to discuss what feels like it’s working and what doesn’t. It is important to tell your therapist how you feel about the process, even if (especially if!) you are dissatisfied with it.
I can’t justify the cost
Therapy is, unfortunately, expensive. The expense is not so much in the individual sessions, which are akin to a massage or a haircut, but in the fact that, for best results, you have to do it every week. However, therapy is an investment. It is an investment in your health and happiness. Not infrequently it even pays off as a financial investment: therapy might help get you ‘unstuck’ professionally, or help you gain the confidence to ask for a pay rise.
But still, it’s expensive. You may find it helpful to think of luxuries you are willing to give up to pay for therapy such as take-aways or manicures. You should certainly not give up all your small indulgences, but it may be helpful to think through where you can whittle down expenses, so that therapy feels like a cost instead of another one, rather than an additional cost.
Also keep in mind that many therapists offer sliding scale fees: don’t be afraid to ask.
Other people have it way worse than me so shouldn’t I try and manage?
Even if half the world is starving, you still need to eat lunch. We all need to figure out how to survive, ideally to thrive. You deserve to understand yourself more fully and to live with more purpose and satisfaction. All the people who have it worse than you do too, but that doesn’t mean you deserve it any less. And if you are motivated to change the world for the better, you will have much more capacity to do so with a well-attended-to psyche.
I don’t want my family or anyone else to know I go to therapy
They don’t have to know. You can pay cash, fit appointments into a work or school day or otherwise arrange practicalities in a way that they don’t find out.
If you do feel you need to keep it a secret, it would be interesting to explore with your therapist why this is.
I tried it before and didn’t get anything out of it
Therapy doesn’t always work. However, if you’ve had an unsatisfactory experience in the past, but are still asking yourself whether to give it another go, it’s likely you have a hunch that it could be helpful.
Perhaps the therapy you had in the past was the wrong approach for you at the time. Perhaps you and your therapist just didn’t click. Perhaps you weren’t ready to examine particular aspects of yourself. Maybe you had a bad therapist – they’re out there – but there are many good ones out there too, and many different ways to do therapy.
During your first meeting with a potential therapist, it’s important to discuss your misgivings, and to tell them what didn’t work for you in the past. A good therapist will tell you if they feel their approach is not the right one for you, and will often be able to suggest other approaches and/or therapists who might fit you better.
It is also important to remember that you can and should tell your therapist if you are unhappy with the work you are doing together. This is something a good therapist will willingly explore with you. You may also decide after a few sessions that the therapist you’re seeing is not for you, which is perfectly acceptable. You don’t have to stick with the first therapist you see, though again, it would be useful to spend a session or two exploring why this is with the therapist. You might even want to agree on a set number of initial sessions with a therapist in which you can assess if the fit feels right.
I don’t know where to start or how to express myself
You don’t have to! You can start just by saying what led you to seek out therapy, even if the answer is ‘I’m not sure’.
I don’t know how to find a therapist
If you are comfortable doing so, ask people around you for a recommendation. Your GP may be able to refer you to someone.
At City Road Therapy we ask those looking for therapy to look through the gallery of therapists, and to read a few profiles to see whom they are drawn towards. We ask you do this because therapy is most successful when the person seeking it and the therapist have a good connection. At City Road, we understand that it can be overwhelming to scroll through therapist profiles wondering which to contact, and so we offer an initial consultation to help you find a good match. In this consultation, one of our therapists will listen to your needs and hopes for therapy, and help you find the right therapist for you. It is also an opportunity for you to ask any questions about therapy in general.
This is normal. Therapy involves closely looking at yourself, reassessing aspects of your life you have taken for granted, and spending a lot of time in the unknown, all of which can feel destabilising and frightening. A good therapist will be there with you to keep you safe, and to set a pace in your therapy that is neither too fast nor too slow.
What do you think? Do you have concerns that aren’t mentioned here? Leave a comment below, and we can pick up on your thoughts in a future blog post!
Marianna Vogt has a private practice at City Road Therapy. She is also one of City Road’s consultation therapists and is available for a one off paid therapy session designed to support anyone who needs help finding a therapist. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her profile here.