I’m pretty sure we’ve all seen articles that dance around the idea of “Why You Should Find a Therapist” or “How Therapy Can Help”. It’s true, many people can benefit from therapy, and many people should find a good therapist. The reasons people have for not going that route don’t get as much attention, though, and they deserve it. Here are a few reasons that those same people who might be helped have for not going back to therapy. These are all really good reasons, by the way. I’m specifically speaking to those who have been and either feel they finished or had an incomplete experience in their journey.
- “I’m fine. I don’t need to go back to therapy, I’m doing just fine. I’m OK, really.” – If you feel that you’re going through your day with a reasonable amount of satisfaction, balance, and fulfillment, then it’s more than likely that this is completely true. There are many roles that you play in life, such as professional, spouse, individual, parent. If you can honestly tell yourself that you’re happy with where you are in all of them, going back to therapy is probably not for you.
- “I don’t want to have to spill my guts again. I did that once (or twice, or several times), and it was heart-wrenching. I don’t want to face that again.” – Therapy is hard! No one ever said that it would be fun, or comfortable. I’ve heard it said that the ideal of therapy is to have a safe place to be uncomfortable. There’s something powerful about that description, and about having a safe place to experience the feelings that have caused you so much trouble. Especially if you’ve had some experience in therapy, and you know how much work it may be for you personally, you may decide that the cost of re-opening a conversation isn’t worth the potential benefit of coming out the other side. Depending on your situation, it may be perfectly fine to sit with the feelings and not go back to take care of them. It all comes back to the foundation of reason #1: If you’re OK enough with where you are in life, there’s no need to start up again.
- “There are too many choices. How do I know who’s good and who’s just not for me?” – I call this “Expensive Restaurant Menu Syndrome.” OK, I really don’t call it that, but it’s the same idea. Unless you’re comfortable with the therapist you were seeing previously, starting up again means that you’ve got to find someone new. How are you supposed to judge? You can certainly go by letters after the name. Certifications and trainings certainly show that a person values their professional competence. They don’t mean that the person will necessarily be a good fit for you personally, though. Same deal with which modalities or approaches they use. It can be overwhelming.
- “Shoot, therapy is expensive! And it takes a lot of time. Who can really commit to that?” – It does take time. Time is money, especially when so many therapists don’t seem to take insurance. In some cases, change can be expected within a few months, but that’s a few months of weekly sessions. And this is aside from the emotional experience referenced above. You need to balance the need for change with how comfortable you are with taking the time to make that change start and stick.
- “If I hear someone ask me how it feels, I’m going to flip out. I know how I feel, and talking about it isn’t going to help any.” – Alas, this is a cornerstone of many approaches used by therapists. Yes, there are some that focus on physical sensations too, or with how you’re thinking about different parts of yourself. At the end of the day, though, it’s likely to get back to emotions and feelings. The feeling that talking about your feelings may not help much is also potentially true. It’s always possible that the talk will cause a shift, whether in your thinking or about your brain. The feeling that it won’t help is a very powerful one, though. You may feel it’s not worth challenging it.
- “I stopped going to therapy for a reason. I wasn’t seeing any change, and quite frankly, I don’t think anyone can help me. I’m just going to have to live with my depression/anxiety/marriage etc. There’s nothing anyone can do.” – Having stopped before, you had a reason for it. You determined at the time that whatever was going on in your life wasn’t being addressed in the way that would have made you feel better, and you decided that you’d live with it as is. It’s that cost benefit analysis. Sometimes the conviction that no one can help can be helpful too, as it helps you to justify not addressing the issue fully, or even partially, and accept that things are what they are. That’s completely OK, as long as it works for you.
- “If I see a therapist who lives in my community, someone will know what’s really going on. That’s too much for me to deal with.” – Confidentiality rules aside, people get really nervous about this. The idea of “Someone” in the community knowing what you’re going through, even if they’ll never share it with anyone besides possibly a supervisor or consultant, can be daunting and even overwhelming. Even though it may be much easier to deal with once you’ve actually shared your story, many people find it simpler to just keep their silence.
What it all boils down to is where you’re up to in life and how the challenges you face are affecting you. If you’ve concluded that the downsides of starting up again outweigh the potential benefits, then there’s really no push to go back. The important thing is to be honest with yourself, and give yourself the chance to really think it through in a way that works for you.