ACONs · Adult Survivors of Emotional Child Abuse · Child Abuse · Emotional Child Abuse · therapy

17 Excuses People Give to Avoid Going to Talk Therapy (and Why They Should Really Rethink Them)

[photo credit: flickr user Jack Lyons]
If you’ve been reading the Invisible Scar articles for some time, you know that we are proponents of therapy. We don’t espouse a specific psychological approach nor do we care whether you choose a psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist, or counselor.

We do care about Invisible Scar readers, though, and so we repeat (often) the phrase please seek professional counseling.

Professional counseling is crucial for an adult survivor of emotional child abuse. Yes, you can read books about emotional child abuse and healing (we highly recommend doing so), but you’re going to reach a point where you need to vent, to cry your heart out, to shout and rage in a safe environment, and to have someone there who can help you figure out how to navigate through the hurt and towards healing. You will find it almost impossible to do that solely on your own because you were raised by people who didn’t teach you those skills and who kept you in emotional captivity.

That is not your fault. You didn’t choose to be abused as a child… but now, as an adult, you get to choose to get professional help and learn new skills and behaviors needed for an emotionally healthy life.

Reasons, Excuses, and Misconceptions About Talk Therapy

Every day, we receive emails—some short as telegrams; others, sprawling tomes. Some readers seek very specific answers to their very specific questions, and we always urge those senders (and our readers) to seek professional help.

Judging by some of the responses to our recommendation of professional counseling, we thought to write a post tackling the different reasons/excuses/misconceptions people have regarding therapy.

1. I don’t know a good therapist and wouldn’t know where to get one

A few good places to start looking for a therapist are…

You can also ask your friends for recommendations, check out the blogs of your local therapists, etc.

Remember that you are not signing an agreement in blood and promising your firstborn to the mental health professional. In other words, you can interview a few therapists until you find the one that connects with you. And you can always choose a new one later down the road.

2. A good therapist costs too much money

The fees associated with going to therapy are often high, but you can try the following options.

  • Some therapists use a sliding scale that depends on their clients’ income.
  • You can see whether your workplace offers free counseling or your insurance pays for it.
  • Local charities and churches often also have therapists who use their skills as a ministry. (Do check to see whether the church counselor has proper training, certification, and an understanding of emotional child abuse. Sometimes, a church “counselor” is only a sympathetic ear only. The intention might come from a good place, but you’ll want professional help and not one with a bias towards reunification with the biological parents.)

For more ideas about affordable therapy, check out the very helpful “How to Find Someone to Talk to When You Can’t Afford It” article at Lifehacker.

3. I don’t need one

Are you the adult survivor of emotional child abuse? The effects of childhood abuse on adults are…

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Cognitive distortions (e.g., “highly fearful and overestimate danger and adversity in your current environment”)
  • Emotional distress (e.g., depression, anxiety, and anger)
  • Anxiety, disorders, panic disorders, phobias, and obsessive-compulsive order
  • Chronic irritability, rage, and difficulties expressing anger constructively
  • Impaired sense of self
  • Avoidance (e.g., disassociation, amnesia for abuse-related events)
  • Interpersonal problems
  • Physical health problems

In reading that list, you may relate to some effects and know you need help. Perhaps something within you is whispering (or perhaps even shouting) that you need to find some sort of livable peace, some direction, some guidance in your journey.

You didn’t just stumble onto The Invisible Scar for no reason. Something or someone brought you here.

Moreover, if you’ve found yourself wanting to share your story in the comments or via the contact form, you clearly do want someone to hear your story, to validate what you’ve endured, to make you feel not so crazy and lost and hurt by what has happened and to feel hopeful for the future.

You may long for that personal touch, that face-to-face interaction, and that’s all very normal and healthy and, if anything, a good sign that you want to heal.

4. All I need is [____________]

The healing journey often requires more than just one tool in your toolbox. Adult survivors need a variety of coping skills and healing approaches to help them grow as a person.

For example, an adult survivor will need to learn to identify different emotions (because s/he was taught that only a couple were permissible), how to vocalize his/her feelings and thoughts without fear of being reprimanded, how to identify “safe” people for relationships, how to avoid repeating behaviors that abusive parents may have taught them, how to conquer the little critic deep within them, how to carry the weight of an abusive childhood, how to—you get the point. An adult survivor needs to figure all this out.

Without a guide, be it a counselor or psychiatrist, an adult survivor might overreach by trying to learn everything at once and expecting immediate results. Or not understand how to navigate through that morass of behaviors.

It’s a lot to take in. Professional counseling can help.

5. I don’t want to complain

Complaining is “expressing dissatisfaction or annoyance about a state of affairs or event” or “expressing a grievance,” according to Merriam-Webster.

So, what’s so wrong about complaining? Why wouldn’t an adult survivor complain about the state of affairs? The adult survivor has been abused throughout his/her childhood and is now trying to make sense of it all. Of course grievances will be stated.

Now, chronic complaining sucks the life out of you (and those who have to listen to it constantly).  Chronic complaining means you’re only seeing the negative in the world and calling dark clouds of gloom over people who are in contact with you.  Being a complainer is not something that is quirky or just a personality trait; it can be changed.

But complaining (in moderation) to your mental health practitioner can be a good thing. You need to find a safe place for your venting, and in time, learn to cope with the subject of your vents and the skills to be less complaining.

6. I don’t have time

Sure you do!

If you have time to watch something on TV, read a book, meet a friend, play an instrument, go out to dinner, etc., you have time to go to therapy.

You just need to make it a priority. You need to make your emotional well-being a priority.

Adult survivors, as children, always focused first on their parents—meeting their parents’ emotional needs, catering to their parents’ whims, obeying every single mandate without question, always thinking about their parents first.

No more. Adult survivors need to place their own well-being now far high on their list of priorities. They are so worth it.

7. I’d feel guilty talking about other people

You’ll be talking to one person, a licensed mental health professional, about them, and this person won’t be able to dish about what you’ve said. You’re not spreading discontent, gossip, or slander in your social circle or neighborhood. This isn’t about them.

Moreover, you’re really talking about yourself. About your story. About what happened to you. About how you handled (or didn’t handle or internalized) situations and life-changing events. About how you see relationships. About your worth or sense of worthlessness.

The sessions will be not just about other people but about you. And that’s the focus for your therapy: your emotional well-being.

You won’t hurt anyone’s feelings during your session nor will you break any rule about gossiping. In a safe environment, with the right mental health professional, you can talk about others without fear or repercussions.

8. Only weak people go to therapy

You have been, in a sense, weakened or at least deprived of essential skills and peace of mind by enduring an abusive childhood. That’s not your fault. It’s like blaming someone for being born without a limb; you just had no say in that.

Now that you know that, you have every right (and even, in a sense, an obligation to yourself) to get fitted with the skills and peace of mind to live a healthy happy life.

Virtually anybody can benefit from these services, and they are not limited to any stereotype. You name it—presidents, celebrities, macho men, kindly grandparents, marriage therapists, happiness experts, Olympic athletes—anyone can benefit from the support and different perspective of a helping professional. It’s not limited to the pop-culture stereotypes of crazy people or damaged people.” (Brad Waters, LCSW, “10 Stereotypes of Mental Health Professionals“)

Not going to therapy is like a person with a physical ailment never getting help. “Oh, I was born near-sighted, I just have to be tough and take it.”

No, you can actually get help. It’s all right… It takes a strong person to admit s/he needs help.

9. I’m over it

Now, this might be true. However, if you are reading posts on The Invisible Scar, you may have some unresolved emotions or issues that you need to discuss.

And that’s all right. Adult survivors of emotional child abuse have endured the worst kind of emotional child abuse. It takes time to heal. Therapy won’t magically patch up all the holes that the abuse has created, but you’ll learn in time to craft an emotionally healthier life.

Adult survivors usually go to therapy for a long while, then, as they grow stronger and more emotionally healthy, visit their therapists as needed. Some survivors go in every two months or so as a “check in” to make sure they’re still on the right path.

10. I don’t want anyone to know that I go to therapy

No one needs to know. You don’t need to share everything with everyone.

That said, you may be surprised to find out that more people go to therapy than you think. Should you choose in time to share this information with your inner circle, you may find a friend saying s/he has also gone to talk therapy.

However, if you don’t feel comfortable telling friends that you go to therapy, don’t tell them.

11. I’ll feel judged

Say someone does find out that an adult survivor attends therapy. What then? He may fear that they will judge him.

People might judge him. But then again, people tend to judge others based on their hair color, weight, body shape, voice, looks, education, music choices, fashion choices… In other words, critical people will always find reasons to judge others.

A big step is to not think about what “they” will say. Think about what you need to do to get emotionally healthy. Think about what a tremendous gift you are giving yourself by attending therapy.

“Stigma connected to getting help for psychological or behavioral concerns used to be a strong deterrent for people,” states the American Psychological in its article Psychotherapy: Myth vs Reality. “But getting help is now seen as a sign of resourcefulness.”

12. I want to be sure it works

Therapy isn’t magical. No magic spell exists to immediately “fix” the problem.

However, if you dedicate yourself to going to the right therapist and you are honest and open in your sessions, you will most likely find yourself getting better.

“Talking can actually do a lot of good. Discussing something with someone who cares about you and who is not judgmental helps relieve the emotional pressure caused by keeping our thoughts and feelings to ourselves. But counseling involves much more than just talking. Counseling provides a way for us to understand who we are and how we relate to the world around us. In counseling we focus our attention on aspects of our experience that we may have been previously unaware of. This provides new ways of looking at our problems and this often gives us new ways to handle these problems.” (Gustavus Augustus College, “The Top 10 Reasons People Avoid Counseling“)

13. I don’t want to even think about my problems

But here you are at The Invisible Scar. Clearly, you are searching for understanding, for healing. (And that’s a good thing!)

14. I don’t want to feel bad about myself or my life

A good therapist will not set out to make you feel bad.

A good therapist should be open and willing to understand your concerns. If your counselor doesn’t take your concerns seriously or is unwilling to accept feedback, then it’s probably in your best interest to consult with another therapist about it.” (Noah Rubenstein, “50 Warning Signs of Questionable Therapy and Counseling“)

15. No one will understand me

A good therapist wants to understand and help her patient. (Helping others is one reason therapists become therapists, after all.) And chances are high that a therapist will be disposed to believe the patient.

However, should an adult survivor find himself with a therapist who doesn’t believe him—even though he is being open and honest in what has happened—the adult survivor should consider talking to a different therapist.

Sometimes, that happens… but don’t let the possibility of that happening deter you from seeking therapy.

16. My last therapist was awful

Some therapists are wonderful; some are wretched. Perhaps you didn’t do your homework and ended up with a therapist who ended up not being the right fit for your needs. Or maybe you did do your homework and still your therapist was a walking disaster.

Crappy therapy happens. But don’t give up. Find a new counselor. Give therapy another shot.

17. I can’t see the point of going

The benefits of therapy are manifold. People who attend talk therapy usually gain…

  • Long-lasting change
  • The feeling of being understood
  • Better health due to facing repressed emotions
  • The skills needed to handle future flashbacks or setbacks
  • A greater ability to express his/her thoughts
  • A greater sense of self-worth
  • A better understanding of who s/he is
  • A better understanding of other people
  • Greater empathy
  • Deeper relationships
  • Rewired brain
  • Better skill set for handing pain, sorrow, and frustration
  • Reduced stress
  • Better boundary-setting

And much more.

* * *

Need more convincing that therapy isn’t just for crazy, weak oddballs? Check out this helpful article “Myths About Therapy” by the founder of GoodTherapy.org, Noah Rubenstein.

“A huge benefit of talk therapy is that its effects are long-lasting,” writes Alice G. Walton in her Forbes article 11 Intriguing Reasons to Give Talk Therapy a Try. “This is because you’re not only working through stuff, but you’re also developing the tools to help you deal with future stuff.”

Go for it. You’re worth it.


Veronica Jarski is founder and managing editor of The Invisible Scar, a passion project dedicated to raising awareness of emotional child abuse and its effects on adult survivors. She has extensive editorial experience and a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Her work has been featured on myriad publications, such as Kapost, Loyola Press, MarketingProfs, and Ragan.

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23 thoughts on “17 Excuses People Give to Avoid Going to Talk Therapy (and Why They Should Really Rethink Them)

  1. Great post. I took me years to pluck up the courage to admit I needed help to unpick some of the damage I endured in childhood. It was the best decision I ever made. Without the help of my counsellor I don’t think I would be capable of forming the wonderful relationship I have with my husband. If we don’t get help, we get stuck.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Love that point you made: “If we don’t get help, we get stuck.”

      Thanks for sharing your story! (And glad to hear you became unstuck. 🙂 )

      Like

  2. I’m glad that it was pointed out in this article that there are good and bad therapists, but this should be stressed simply because there are some people who are so in need of help that connecting with a bad therapist could be disastrous, especially for those who are suicidal or psychotic. A bad therapist could actually be the catalyst for those types of people snapping. Mental health is not taken seriously enough in this Country, or any country. Mental illness is the cause of most things bad including school shootings, terrorist attacks, suicide, murder, homelessness, chemical dependency, violence, abuse, etc. I cannot help but to think of all of the harm and damage that could be prevented with more mental health awareness and help. And considering how many bad therapists there are the chance of getting stuck with one is high. I have personally experienced multiple bad therapists in my life and even though I was not psychotic or suicidal, the bad therapist most certainly caused problems in my life and my marriage.

    Like

  3. Therapy with an understanding counselor gave me the courage to face the truth. I had been dumping a lot of crap on my boyfriend, who was becoming overwhelmed… He said you need to go to counseling more than once.
    Glad I did, I am NC right now with the abuser, and don’t regret it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah, good point. *Not* going to therapy can cause an unnecessary burden of sorts on the adult survivor’s loved ones. Yes, good friends and relatives will want to help the adult survivor on his/her path, but emotional child abuse is such a hard, weighty topic that it can tax one’s friends and family.

      Going to a therapist can reveal some of the burden one inadvertently places on one’s loved ones. And those loved ones can support the adult survivor in different ways (even in providing breaks of going to the movies or a concert and not having to think about the abuse 24/7 as an awakening adult survivor is wont to do).

      Also, thanks for sharing your story, and happy to hear you are in a better place emotionally.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. After several years of dealing with NC/VLC on my own (books/message boards/understanding loved ones), I have recently started therapy with a counselor trained in the style I thought might be effective for the long-term effects I was suffering. Despite all I thought I had processed on my own, it has been unbelievably revelatory and healing… just to have an objective outsider affirm your parent as your abuser, to definitively diagnose their personality disorder and to help you navigate the ways in which this has hindered you since childhood — and the path out now — is literally life-altering and -saving.

    I cannot begin to urge people to stop what they’re doing right now and make therapy the very first priority in their life. We are so engrained to putting self-care on a back burner, and this is one thing you can do right now that will have lifelong implications for your wellbeing.

    My weekly therapy appointment is work, to be sure; I think about what I’m going to discuss before I go in, I sometimes make notes, I occasionally break down and have to power through… but I leave every week feeling refreshed, renewed, as though I’ve spent an hour bathing in the cleanest, coolest waterfall — one, finally, of truth. I leave feeling strong, cleansed, and powerful.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Feeling safe to discuss the most horrible secrets, pain, doubts, fears, anger etc. Prayer and therapy, coñfidentiality for me is so important.

      Being betrayed or having personal information shared or used against me has caused such a lack of trust.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wondering if you can help me. I have divorced a narcissist about 2 years ago. How do I know if my eldest son is taking my place as a target for his narcissism ?

    On Tuesday, June 30, 2015, The Invisible Scar wrote:

    > editor-in-chief | Veronica Jarski posted: “If you’ve been reading the > Invisible Scar articles for some time, you know that we are proponents of > therapy. We don’t espouse a specific psychological approach nor do we care > whether you choose a psychologist, psychiatrists, therapist, or counselor. > “

    Like

  6. I’m afraid to go to therapy because I don’t trust people. My mother, now with her PhD in Psychology, years earlier worked for a therapy office. She encouraged me to go and later she told me that she had read my file! “Don’t get me started on my mother.” I am on MediCal (with unlimited visits) and live in an area that only has ‘family’ counseling, i.e. couples, children. I see a Psychiatrist, thankfully, and am on meds that are improving my life.
    My question is, can a family psychologist help me with my childhood abuse issues? This is the one thing, aside from my trust issues, that keeps me from going. I don’t want to waste my time with someone that cannot help me.
    Oh my. Just remembered another bad psychologist experience: My husband and I went to couples therapy. The first visit we were with several other couples and viewed a video regarding what to expect from couples therapy, ya da ya da ya. One point made in the video was to be committed in wanting your relationship to last. 3 days later my husband left me and said, ‘You’re not worth it.’
    Ouch.
    I’m just plain scared.

    Like

    1. Does no one have an opinion on whether a “family” and “couples” therapist can fruitfully assist me with my childhood abuse?
      I’m surprised there were no comments whatsoever to my post. I NEED HELP!
      Thank you very much,
      Cathleen

      Like

    2. I hope you did find some help and support. I felt saddened reading your post from over a year ago.
      One thing I did want to mention is that: no one can read your file without your written permission. I don’t know the details, yet it sounds like your ‘mother’ violated HIPAA laws. That is a very serious offense, especially for one practicing in the field.

      Like

  7. Hi Vee,

    Can I add another bullet point to your excellent list? Let me explain…

    I recently had a major breakthrough in my battle to overcome problems stemming from being an ACoN. Through some online research and reading some excellent books like Healing The Shame That Binds You by John Bradshaw etc I started to identify area’s of my life that were going askew..I then went a step further and starting consciously thinking back to my childhood to try and remember all the memories I had deliberately forgotten as a child because at the time they were too painful.

    It’s difficult to explain exactly what happened at this point, but it was akin to exposing a hidden wounded inner child, and he was not a happy camper. To cut a long story short I grappled with this raging child and resolved the source of the anger and I am all good and much better for the experience.

    Which is great, but… we need trained therapists with us when we go poking around the darker corners of our psych because there are memories and emotions down there hidden away that were so painful as children we couldn’t face them. I was totally unprepared to handle the sheer force of feelings that came out. As ACoNs we’ve learnt how to mask our feelings and never let anyone get too close. Consequently our emotions are somewhat dulled. Experiencing raw primal rage from deep within myself was intense and way more than I was ready to deal with.

    I’m booked into see a psychologist after the Xmas holidays because I figure there is probably more down there and I don’t want to go through that again alone. We need to tread carefully with someone strong nearby when we try to deal with our past hurts. Don’t go there alone.

    Like

  8. I didn’t go to therapy for years because in my teens, when I should have started, that’s when my mom and sister started using the request for me to “get therapy” as a kind of punishment and abuse in itself. I knew there was nothing wrong with me – they were the mentally ill ones, the dysfunctional ones. I knew they blamed me for things I didn’t do, they gaslighted me, and I was determined when they said I needed to see a therapist to not go because that was admitting to them they were correct. My mom had used therapy to manipulate and gaslight me into thinking I’m the crazy one with the anger problem for a long time, and in college she threatened me that I wasn’t allowed to come home for the summer because my presence was too hard on the family, unless I saw a therapist. So, I went. That was the only time I ever talked to a therapist about my family and I started out telling him exactly why I was there – that if I didn’t go, I wasn’t allowed to come home, and they say i have anger issues. Guess what he said? I am their scapegoat, don’t let them get me down. I should have kept going, but I was a college student and more occupied with living it up (away from my parents, the only time I was free) and also still afraid that if I regularly went, that meant I was crazy and admitting I had mental illnesses. I had a small awakening, though, and never forgot what that therapist said to me.

    I have had a very depressing year and I talked to my sister within the past year, and she said “you need to see a therapist because I am not qualified to talk to you about your sadness.” that was so hurtful. I said “So you can only talk to me when I am happy, but you, someone close to me, perhaps the person who knows me best, cannot speak to me about my emotions? or even listen?” she refused to answer that. She has been drinking my mom’s kool-aid. No one in my family is allowed to talk about feelings – if they’re not happy ones. And I get embarrassed talking about those, too.

    Anyway, then I said “I once went to a therapist in college when mommy made me go, and he said my family uses me as a scapegoat.” I said this in a very neutral tone. She just replies, “well, you didn’t have a good therapist. You need to find a good one.” Because that wasn’t anywhere near the answer they wanted. They want me to come back from therapy and say “hey you’re right, I am mentally ill.”

    I have finally, 12 years after that therapy session, begun searching for a therapist who can talk to me and help me, and I know I am not crazy and that going there will not make me feel crazy. I am proud to go. Don’t delay, if you’re considering it!

    Like

    1. Good on you and best wishes. You may find this amusing and topical: A friend who was sexually abused in childhood said to me when we were in our early 30s, “Isn’t it ironic? They have the problem behaviours, and we end up going to psychotherapy instead of them.” …your abusers won’t take responsibility for what they have done. If they did, they would be serious about changing.

      Like

    2. I hope you are doing well. Your description of family sounds like typical enmeshment family–one identity all merged together. As soon as one has a different opinion, one is excluded, labeled, et al. The ‘identified patient’..

      Like

    3. When I was 10 years old my parents sent me to therapy. My father explained that “if you had a broken leg you would go to a doctor, and it’s you brain that is broken”. So I was terrified that I would be locked in a mental institution. I didn’t talk for the first two visits, but on the third appointment I opened up to the therapist. After that I my parents never sent me back. I asked many times throughout the years why they pulled me out of therapy and their answer was “That guy was an a–hole”. Now I know why. He told them something they didn’t want to hear, it was their fault! If I was so bad and the therapist was not qualified, why not send me somewhere else? No, they were petrified they would be the “sick” ones.

      I am in therapy now, 30 years later, and it is life transforming. Living in the truth is painful, but unlike the pain of living others lies, so worth it.

      Like

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