5 Common Reasons for Resisting Therapy

Therapy Resist

In today’s world, the of spending hundreds of dollars on tangible and material items is far more justifiable than using that money on oneself by means of maintaining one’s mental health, or the mental health of a loved one.

Why? “After all, people want to be happy. We want to reach goals. We want to fight, stress and worry less, and enjoy more peace and satisfaction in every area of life. Hiring a therapist can help with all of those desires—and so many others. So why are so many people so reluctant to “invest”?”

Here are 5 of Suzanne Gelb Ph.D., J.D.‘s theories:

1) We don’t want to face our feelings

This is unfortunate, but also completely understandable. For example, if you are grieving a divorce or break up, it’s “easier” to buy a new outfit than to describe your shame, fear, or anxiety to a total stranger. Some people worry that if they “dive into” whatever they’re feeling, it will “unleash” something dangerous and unmanageable. Clients have said to me, “If I start crying, I don’t think I will ever be able to stop.” This fear can inhibit people from seeking help. They just don’t want to “go there.”

2) We crave a “quick fix”

Therapy and coaching are powerful processes but rarely does either work overnight. Both require you to show up and “do the work”—often for a period of weeks or months. There’s no miracle balm when it comes to emotional well-being. From a consumer’s standpoint, commitment and dedication to emotional healing over time might not sound as tantalizing as a new tablet that can be shipped to your door in two days or less. We tend to crave a “quick fix,” and that’s not something that (good) therapy or coaching can promise.

3) We feel that investing in our happiness is “frivolous”

Some people are taught at an early age that pursuing happiness is frivolous or even selfish. These lessons can become deeply ingrained. I’ve heard people say things like, “I don’t deserve to spend money on this retreat (or program). That would be frivolous.” Yet, that same person might spend hundreds of dollars on a concert ticket or a trip to Las Vegas—something that provides an instant but fleeting sense of enjoyment. Strange, right? It has become acceptable in our culture to invest heavily in our entertainment—but personal growth and healing, less so.

4) We feel ashamed to seek help

Many people are ashamed of having “problems,” certainly too ashamed to seek help. I often hear things like, “I am a doctor, I should have my life together…”; “I’m an adult, not a kid, I shouldn’t be struggling with this anymore…” or, “I’m a CEO of a company, I manage a lot of people, I have a Ph.D.—I should be able to figure out how to stop overeating on my own!”

The truth is that everybody—no matter how mature, skilled, or educated—needs help from time to time. But investing in that help can be emotionally tricky. Some of us feel that seeking help means saying that we are weak, lazy, or a failure—none of which are true. Unfortunately, social stigmas associated with therapy and coaching deter some people from reaching out for help.

5) We don’t believe it will “work”

Is it guaranteed? How can I be sure I’ll get my money’s worth?”
When you order a gadget on Amazon, you can be 100% certain that you’ll receive your product—or your money back. When you order a slice of cheesecake from your favorite bakery, you can be nearly as certain that it will be delicious and will (temporarily) make you feel happy. When you invest in therapy or coaching, on the other hand, there’s much less certainty. You’re not buying a snack or a product; you’re investing in an interdependent process, and in order for it to “work,” you have to show up and do your part as much as the specialist you’ve hired. Investing in personal growth can feel far more complex and nuanced, and far less certain, than just buying stuff.

If you’re curious about therapy but are feeling hesitant, what can you learn from this personal investment? As written by Suzanne Gelb Ph.D., J.D.

  1. Take a moment to self-reflect. What fears, doubts, and stigmas or biases that might be fueling your reluctance? Think about what is holding you back, and why.
  2. Consider the “cost” of doing nothing. Where will you be two or three years from now, if you continue to repeat the same patterns that are making you unhappy today? What’s the “cost” of inaction, or of remaining stuck? It may be very high, indeed.
  3. Adjust your attitude. Do you need to alter how you view investing in your happiness, health, and well-being? Can you really put a price tag on your inner peace and happiness, or your family’s well-being? What is your health “worth” to you? Hopefully, quite a lot.
  4. Give yourself permission. There’s nothing “wrong” with treating yourself to beautiful things and experiences: Savor a beautiful meal at your favorite restaurant, enjoy a vacation by the lake, grab a new book, or treat yourself to a fabulous haircut. Just remember: As enjoyable as those experiences are, they are fleeting. The transformation you can create through therapy or coaching, on the other hand, can last a lifetime.
Portions of this post were written by Suzanne Gelb Ph.D., J.D. on the original Psychology Today article.

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