There are a number of reasons why people resist seeing a psychologist for therapy. Here are five of them:
“Therapy is a quick fix.”
“It’s like going to see a mechanic for a tune up,” has been a helpful metaphor for reducing stigma attached to seeing a psychologist. It is, however, helpful to a point. Therapy may have a definable and sometimes limited number of sessions (often between 5-20 in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) but it’s not meant to be a quick fix. It’s closer to asking a professional to help renovate your house. You might be updating some old furniture you’ve outgrown, or doing something structural to the house to reinforce the foundations. Or perhaps you’re renovating after a fire or flood has caused so much damage it looks nothing like it once did. Renovating ‘your house’ requires investment from you and your therapist. And yet the outcome will be worth it.
Usually, your first few sessions will look quite different to the rest of therapy, as your psychologist seeks to spend time understanding the issues at hand. This gives them the information they need to guide the strategies they will provide. This can be frustrating:
“This isn’t helpful.”
“Did I really pay money for someone to ask me a bunch of questions?”
“This is taking too long.”
These are all normal frustrations at this stage of therapy. Why not try communicating this to your psychologist? You might be surprised by their response.
“Acknowledging my problems will make them worse.”
Research actually suggests that discussing our difficult experiences (e.g. thoughts and emotions) decreases their intensity. So why does talking help? In part, talking allows you to process those thoughts and emotions and to sort through their complexities. Chatting about them can also help to provide distance from them, allowing you to notice other possibilities outside of the narrative put forward by those distressing thoughts. And finally, it helps because you’re talking to someone trained in helping you work through them.
“Therapy is just talking about my problems. I can do that with my friends for free!”
It’s true that talking is an important part of therapy. It’s how you communicate the challenges you’re facing, and it’s how your therapist will communicate understanding. So, what’s different about a friend who’s a ‘good listener’ and seeing a psychologist? Talking in therapy is like the gelatin around the outside of a lifesaving capsule a patient takes once a week. There’s nothing magical about the gelatin, and yet it’s how the ingredients of the medication are encapsulated and ingested. So, whilst life-saving tablets and paracetamol capsules might share gelatin in common, the content within them is vastly different.
Psychologists will provide you with evidence-based strategies, information and tools to help tackle the issue you’re facing.
“Therapists don’t really care, they’re only there because they’re getting paid.”
Psychologists, like everyone else, need to earn a livelihood. But that doesn’t mean they don’t care. I went into psychology hoping to be able to make a difference in the lives of others, not to earn a living. Being paid to help clients is what makes it sustainable, not what gives it meaning.
“My problem isn’t perceived, it’s real. Psychology can’t help.”
Many people are sceptical that therapy can be helpful for the distress they’re facing. A taxing job you can’t leave, issues of infertility, the loss of a loved one – therapy can help with these problems. Your psychologist isn’t going to just tell you to change your perspective or help you see that all your stress is just an issue of perspective. Psychologists take the time to understand you, and the problems you’re facing, and then use that knowledge to provide a specific and tailored approach to your situation. They will give you strategies and tools and invite you to provide feedback when they’re not working.
Now that you have the flipside to some common objections, what could you gain from therapy? Perhaps it’s more than you think.
If you would like a taste of what it’s like to see a psychologist, take advantage of this free resource.
Alternatively, if you’re ready, you could sign up to be alerted when spaces open up in our diary.