"I don't want to talk to a stranger"
"It will feel awkward and I won’t know what to say"
"I’m too embarrassed to go to counseling"
"Only “crazy” people or people with serious problems go to counseling"
"I don’t want to talk about it"
"Talking about it will make me feel worse than before"
As a counselor, sitting on the other side of the counseling session doesn't feel scary at all! But I’ve been to counseling myself and I remember how anxious I was about it initially. Here are some of my most candid responses to these fears of going to counseling:
I don't want to talk to a stranger
Fair point. Talking to a stranger about things that feel incredibly personal is a weird idea. It’s also a great idea in therapy - the stranger that you’re talking to doesn’t have a personal bias against you or the people you might talk about. Your counselor doesn't even know them! You have the space to be completely honest. And the therapist that you're working with has a professional obligation to keep everything you say to them confidential.
It will feel awkward and I won’t know what to say
It probably will feel awkward at first, unless perhaps you immediately click with your counselor. Most of our meaningful relationships start with an awkward period in the beginning. Once the awkwardness passes you might find that your counselor can be a supportive and helpful person in your life. As for not knowing what to say, well, you are paying for this time. You can talk about literally anything you want. And your counselor will ask you questions - you aren’t responsible for completely carrying the conversation.
I’m too embarrassed to go to counseling
If you feel embarrassed to go to counseling, I would start by having you consider what feels embarrassing about it. Are you afraid to appear weak if you ask for help? Do you want to appear as if you have it all together? And most importantly: How is that working for you? It might be time to push past embarrassment if you really need the help. Also, your counseling appointments are completely confidential. No one has to know that you’re going to counseling. Of course, someone might see you walk in or you might run into someone you know in the waiting room. All that means is that you also know someone else who decided to seek help through therapy.
Only “crazy” people or people with serious problems go to counseling
You don’t have to have “serious” problems to go to counseling - though I’m not sure what makes a problem "serious" vs "not serious." If you have something in your life that is causing you distress and would like to talk to someone about it who can help, counseling is perfect for you. You don’t have to meet a certain standard to go to counseling.
I don’t want to talk about “it” (whatever that big thing is)
Fair enough. Sometimes I don’t want to talk about things either. Especially intense things that seem scary to share with someone else. If you aren’t ready to talk about it, your counselor shouldn’t force you to talk about it. That doesn’t mean you can’t talk about things that you feel comfortable talking about. Counseling can be helpful for smaller things and bigger things. Sometimes talking through problems that feel smaller can help us gain confidence to talk through problems that seem bigger.
Talking about it will make me feel worse than before
Sometimes this is true. Sometimes talking about something does make us feel worse. But like a lot of things, facing emotions head on feels worse before it feels better. And sometimes our emotional capacity to handle our feelings get a lot better when you have a trained professional walking alongside of you who isn't fearful of exploring emotion with you.
Maybe you’ve had a bad experience in counseling. Maybe there is a stigma against counseling in your family. I get it. As a counselor, I have been in counseling myself. Making that first appointment felt scary. I didn’t know what would happen and I was scared of the unknown.
So why did I decide to go?
The stuff going on in my life was way more unbearable than the fear of seeking out counseling. The things I was trying on my own weren’t working. My family and friends love me but are too close to help me solve problems without personal input. I needed - and wanted - help more than I needed to avoid something scary.
If you think counseling might be a right fit for you, please reach out to Bethel Haven. Our counselors are ready to help - and they aren't scary at all.