OMG I do NOT Need Therapy! 5 Key Reasons People Avoid Counseling
Mary Ruth Cross, MFT, NCC, RPT-S
CEO/Owner Treehouse Family Counseling Services, PC
We hear this often when people need it the most. Coming to the decision to ask for help is not an event it actually is an internal process. We think about our problem for quite a while before reaching out. Why do we do this? There are a lot of reasons people take their time in deciding to go to counseling. Denial or minimization of the problem is perhaps one the most common reasons, “It’s not that bad.” Or “I can handle it.” In many cases you can handle it however at what cost? How hard are you holding on to “handling it”? Are you happy with what you are doing or how you are behaving?
A counselor has training and background that you don’t have so they can look at situations with a new perspective. Have you ever heard the adage “You can’t see the forest for the trees?” it took a while for me to figure out the true meaning of this phrase. It tells us that we can overlook important details because we don’t have our focus on the right perspective. Counselors are not here to tell you how to live your life, we show you how your life is trying to tell you something important. It is up to you to assess whether that needs to be changed.
Another reason people delay in coming to counseling is “I just don’t have time.” Many corporations give bonuses for working beyond what is healthy. We are not rewarded for saying “no, I need to take care of myself and my family first.” If you work for yourself it is especially hard to maintain healthy boundaries because no comes along and says that it is time to go home. However, if we don’t’ know how to put ourselves first in healthy ways it creates burnout and resentment. This then gets translated into undue stress at home and primary familial relationships can be damaged.
Western society prides itself on being independent so asking for help can feel like you are telling the world “I failed because I need help.” Asking for help is a sign of strength because it says that you know your limits and you have reached it. We all have limits and when we respect those limits we affirm our self-worth and increase overall health. Children ask for help all the time. Why is it so easy for them and not so easy for adults? Kids and teens trust that their needs will be met because that usually is what has happened at home. As adults we must use our internal resources to get things done. Bosses often want their employees to come to them not just with questions or problems but suggestions on how they think it should be handled. Whereas there is value in having this type of full participation it can also lead to an internalized belief that you are the only one who is responsible for solving problems therefore not asking for help becomes a habit. Perhaps it is time to break the habit?
Fear is also a major contributing factor to why people don’t’ come to counseling when they need it. There is the “Fear Factor”. Fear of the unknown, fear that the therapist will uncover something you are not ready/able to look at yet, fear of facing the truth about a situation, fear your fear that there really is something wrong with you will finally be validated. We understand that counseling is a strange and new experience for many people. Our job is to help you feel safe and comfortable enough to work on the issues that are bothering you. We go at your pace and make sure you are managing your thoughts and feelings along the way.
Lastly, and sadly for us counselors there is still a perception that going to counseling is only for people that are sick or that there is something wrong with them. I love it when my clients see our therapeutic relationship as something to use when they need a little help or advice, like when you go to your primary care physician. I have been lucky to have families that I have worked with on and off for many years, helping all the family members to thrive and grow.
We at Treehouse Family Counseling Services add play to our sessions to bring about the changes that our clients say they want. Play Therapy is usually thought of as something only little kids use but that would not be a fair assessment. Play is a relevant and important part of human development throughout our lives. Mr. Rogers advocated for play as the primary language of children. The training a play therapist has is in understanding and interpreting the play language. The way we play changes as we age so the play interventions we use in counseling change with the age of the person we are working with. We meet the client, regardless of age, where they are and grow from there. Please let us know how we can help you.