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.
But 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.
That is not your fault.
Once more: 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 to 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 a therapist
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—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.
You are 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.
More and more people in the public eye are sharing their stories of depression, emotional child abuse, anxieties, and other issues because everyone struggles with something. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. You didn’t cause your emotional child abuse. It’s not your fault.
But if you don’t feel comfortable telling friends that you go to therapy, don’t tell them. You’re not required to share that information with people you don’t feel comfortable with.
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.
Ignore them. Shake it off.
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.
I get a lot of emails and comments about people telling me that I am wrong, wrong, wrong, in recommending therapy. “No one can help me! I tried X many therapists and they didn’t work for me!” or “I had a bad therapist! I am never trying therapy again!” or “Therapists suck! They’re all awful.”
Let’s be real, friends. Not every therapist provides stellar counseling. But some do. A heckuva lot of them do. So, stay vigilant, stay persistent, and find that therapist that will click with you.
And then be patient with your therapist. They can only offer counseling on what you tell them, so be open and honest with your therapist. Give the relationship some time to work. If after several sessions, you feel disheartened and lost and like you’ve gotten worse … then, by all means, look for a new therapist.
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 handling 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.
Originally published in June 2015. Updated article in May 2019.
Veronica Jarski is founder and managing editor of The Invisible Scar. She has extensive editorial experience and a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Her work has been featured on myriad publications. She also put together this ebook “What Really Happened,” a collection of expanded already published articles here in one easy-to-read PDF.