Why Is Therapy so Difficult?
I start my professional profiles with the line, "Being in Therapy isn't easy." I figured I would be bold and honest upfront, because I know that:
1) there is still a stigma about being in therapy
a) only really crazy people need therapy
b) you are weak if you can't fix your own problems
c) we don't want to admit something is wrong
2) a lot of reasons why we go to therapy are embarrassing, also things we don't like to admit, to ourselves or others
a) low self esteem, anger, jealousy, guilt, shame, trauma, etc.
b) relationship problems
d) sexual (functioning/identity/desire) problems
This blog will address some of the big reasons why being in therapy is difficult. The purpose is to let it be known, these are all very common issues for most people, whether they are thinking about going to therapy, or even while being in therapy. You are not alone if you are experiencing these issues.
I encourage my Clients to address any/all of these issues with me as we work together. It's definitely on my priority list as a Therapist to consider all of this while working with Clients, and to openly talk about it together, with the goal of working through the issues to allow the process of therapy to be the most beneficial for you.
So let's look at some of the major barriers to successful therapy treatment:
*The Stigma of Therapy
A lot of us view the counseling, psychology profession, emerging in the beginning, as a need to treat patients with major psychological problems. And in the beginning, this was true. Psychology was developed to treat people who had severe trouble functioning with every day life. A lot of the terminology we may associate with early psychological treatment are words like:
-unfit for living
It doesn't surprise me that we might feel that psychological counseling treatment isn't for us. We wouldn't want to believe that we are any of those things listed above, as we most likely are not those things. But, we're really just having a hard time figuring life out, like most of us.
As you can see, in the beginning, mental health didn't have the most positive reputation for it's treatment population. However, as time went on, the field expanded and became better developed, and no longer was just a treatment approach for people with severe psychosis.
Today, counseling services are offered for pretty much everything we experience as humans!
I'm not just saying this because I am a therapist, but I believe anyone and everyone would benefit from being in therapy if they were able to view it as helpful. It's a place where we get to talk about anything that's going on in our lives:
mentally- what we're thinking about things
emotionally- how we're feeling about things
relationally- what's going on in our interpersonal relationships (socially, romantically, family, etc.)
environmentally- what's going on in our lives around us (work, school, society, media, politics, global issues, hobbies, etc.)
Once the stigma of therapy is removed, we are able to see it as a helpful resource, rather than something that we don't need. As humans, we are all struggling with managing life. Life is hard, complicated, and overwhelming. Why not talk about it? Talking about it can help us figure out how to manage it better, so we don't have to feel it's too much to handle, and we can feel we have a better sense of control, in our out-of-control world.
*Why Talk to a Stranger?
It probably seems weird to go to a stranger to talk about your personal problems. I get it, but that's actually why it works!
First, lets address the awkwardness of talking to a stranger. You go to a therapist, who is a person that you don't know. You are expected to tell them a lot of personal information about yourself, and they don't really share too much with you, about themselves. Seems pretty uneven, right?
Also, it's really difficult to share embarrassing, painful and uncomfortable issues that you want to talk about in therapy with anyone in general. We want to feel safe, and that we can trust the person we are sharing this with. How can we do that with a stranger?
The therapeutic relationship between the Client and the Therapist is a process that takes time to build. The therapist is there to provide a safe environment for you to talk about the difficult things, so that you don't feel judged, or like you are going to be in trouble for saying something, and to be able to trust that this information isn't going to be used against you, what is referred to as emotional trust.
Therapy is a place for you to say anything freely. Imagine that! Actually verbalizing things that go on in your head, openly, to another human being. I believe this is something that a lot of people don't do, and I also believe this is something that can be so liberating! By doing this, we learn to become more self aware, actually knowing what we think and what we feel, which is the first step to then figuring out what to do about it.
Why it works:
The therapist is someone who is not connected to you, your family, or your personal life. So, the therapist is completely objective. They have no personal thoughts/feelings/opinions/biases towards you or anyone/anything you talk about.
As you talk about your life, you are speaking from your subjective point of view, meaning it's all about your thoughts/opinions/feelings. The therapist is listening from the objective point of view, meaning they don't have any personal feelings attached to your experiences.
I'm a firm believer that "we are all our own worst enemies," and I mean this because we are all really good at creating problems for ourselves, and making our problems bigger than necessary, in the way that we think about things and how we feel things.
So, the therapist is there to listen objectively and help us understand how our perception of our experiences have been most likely more harmful than needed. This is not to minimize anything that has happened, however it is to help us learn to not judge our current experiences based off of past experiences. We learn to let go of past pain so that it doesn't stunt us from moving forward and leading productive lives today, in all aspects of personal development.
*Therapy is not an Instant Gratification Thing
Going to therapy isn't something that we get immediate results from, so it can feel time consuming in our busy lives. This can be frustrating for a lot of people, especially in today's society where most things are instantly at our fingertips when wanted.
Most times, we don't go into therapy and have everything resolved in 3, 5, or even 10 sessions. If you think about it, many of the reasons why we are going to therapy are things that have developed over years. So to have an expectation that it will be resolved in short term therapy is usually unreasonable.
I'm not saying that short term therapy is impossible, but it also depends on what your goals are for therapy, and most of all, maintaining the change for a significant period of time to see long lasting results, which usually requires longer-term maintenance.
*Being in Therapy vs. Being in Reality
So here you are, going to therapy, being proactive with doing something to help yourself, to better yourself; where you are challenged to become more self aware and take responsibility for your thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
That 50 minute weekly session flies by, and out the door you go, back into your real world life. I've been pretty good at guessing that a lot of the people we deal with in our personal and daily lives, are people who most likely aren't doing the hard work of going to therapy for themselves. That can get really frustrating. It can be difficult to practice your progress with people who are not progressing themselves. It can make it easy for us to feel that we want to give up on therapy, since, "if they aren't trying to better themselves, then why should I?"
That is a very common experience to have while in therapy. That may even be a reason people stop going to therapy, because it does get hard to keep up with the work. I would challenge that "problem" with reflecting on why we want to be in therapy to begin with, and reinforce that ultimately therapy is just for you, and no one else. You began therapy to help yourself, and although it is challenging to do while outside influences remain difficult, your goal is to be the best version of you possible, so why let anyone else stop you from achieving that?
*It's Easier to Blame Others
It's not easy for us to accept that we are responsible for our lives. That is a HUGE responsibility! And probably overwhelming to most of us.
We are great at complaining and not feeling satisfied with ourselves, or where we are at in our lives, or in our relationships with others, and we're even better at blaming everyone and everything else for it. Again, not to minimize anything that has happened to us, but how is that going to help us get what we really want out of life?
We might believe that ruminating on these pains will somehow make things change for us, because why shouldn't they? We are good people, and we deserve what we want. And whoever hurt us should fix it for us.
Not going to happen.
We all learn how to play the "victim" in certain situations in our lives, and we believe we deserve what we want, just because we are good people. So, we wait around for someone or something to do it for us. Reality check, it doesn't happen. And we get more resentful with time. And if we actually believe we don't have to do anything to change for ourselves, we put a lot of pressure and expectation on everyone around us, which usually pushes people away from us.
It's easy to blame other people's behaviors for our feelings, but man, that means our entire being, our personality and moods are dictated by other people! That's not fair, and I mean that it's not fair to ourselves to allow these other people to have that kind of power over us!
If you want to be a happy, caring, understanding person, then be it. Don't let anyone take that from you. No one else is going to change anything for us, and that's ok! The world doesn't owe us a thing. If you want something, you have to get it. It's a lot of hard work and dedication to accomplish these kinds of goals, however if we're not doing that hard work, we're just going to keep doing what we've been doing, over and over, which doesn't seem to be getting us what we want.
It's easy for us to make comparisons to other people around us, or in the world, to focus on what they have and what we don't have. It's easy
*Where to even Begin
A lot of people come in to therapy for one reason, and wind up exploring other areas of life along the way. This can feel disorganized, and even confusing. Therapy opens up many doors, as we human beings are multidimensional.
Life is ongoing, it doesn't stop. We usually can't put certain areas of our lives on hold while working on other areas of life, it just isn't realistic. It's all happening at the same time, so we would benefit from learning how to balance and manage all these things together, which is a lot of work.
This is a normal part of the process, and the therapist is there to help focus the sessions on what's most important to the Client goals.
So there you go, those are just a few barriers to starting or being in therapy, which I wanted to address as my first blog on my website to help others understand that it's ok to think and feel these things. Most people probably do. These aren't things that should stop you from getting the help you need and deserve, because silently suffering isn't helping you get better.
Please feel free to comment below, get a dialogue going, contact me for any questions, inquiries, or information.
Thank you for taking the time to read :)