Why people avoid the doctor and the therapist


By David Joel Miller

What are your reasons for avoiding getting your problems treated?

Therapy

Therapy
Photo courtesy of Flickr (Steel Wool)

The scenario is the same only the problems and the treating professional change. You have a problem, a sore that does not heal, a physical or emotional pain that won’t go away, or a troubled relationship, but you avoid getting help.

Why do people so often avoid treatment for a problem?

We see a lot of couples who come for marriage counseling, they have talked about seeing a counselor off and on for a long time. Now when they come to our offices one or both have decided it is over, past the point of repair. They say they can’t stand the pain one day longer.

Why have they waited so long? What made them think they needed to endure that pain at all? Here are some of the faulty beliefs that cause people to avoid therapy.

Talking about problems will make them worse.

Despite this fears prevalence, there are plenty of reasons to think just the opposite. Problems caught in the early stage may need small corrections; wait too long and they need major changes.

Admitting you have problems or challenges does not mean giving in to them. Recognizing your challenges gives you something you can work on to improve your life.

Asking for help means I am weak.

It is easy to delude yourself, think you are or should be superman or superwoman, able to handle everything by yourself. That is just not the way life works. Even experts consult with other experts. Two heads are better than one. Recovering people have sponsors, and in the sphere of emotional problems, counselors and therapists frequently see other professionals when they experience life problems.

People will think I am crazy or incompetent if I go for help.

No one should think that, especially not the therapist.

First off, therapy is confidential. Your counselor is not going to tell and you have the choice of telling or not telling your family and friends.

We all have times in our lives when we need to see a professional or a specialist. You see a mechanic for your car repair and you see a lawyer if you have legal issues. Hopefully, you saw one or more teachers that taught you how to read.

Some people are able to do some of these things for themselves, but not many people are doctors, lawyers and tax accountants. Everyone needs some advice now and then.

Counselors can do several things that are helpful, Give you perspective, no you are not crazy, lots of people in your circumstance would have that issue. They also can help you learn skills you need to manage or regulate emotions.

Lots of people spend their whole life working at jobs they hate or that are low paying because they did not use the services of a career counselor to help them plan the right career for them.

People also do not seem to come in to learn how to be good parents or good spouses. The do however see their therapist when the child has problems or the marriage is in trouble.

A little early skills training or education can help you reduce life problems or navigate the things that will come along in any life.

Once I lose control, start crying or get angry I will never be able to stop.

This idea is simply not true. Given enough time people regain control. People cry and then they get “cried out” we laugh and then the laughter fades. The problem is not that a feeling will take control of you and you will never return. The issue is that you need to learn to regulate your feelings.

Regulate does not mean destroy them or eradicate them. It means to learn to be able to control them, work with them, learn from them and play with them.

Want proof that you will not be transported to crazyland if you start to cry?

Create some crying time!

Have some sadness you are afraid will overwhelm you? Set aside a time each day, 15 to 30 minutes. This same time each day go in a room by yourself and set a timer. For the entire time cry nonstop. Cry as hard as you can. Get that crying out!

What people find is that they are usually not able to keep up the crying for the full-time. They just do not have 30 minutes worth of tears in them every day, especially not every day for a week or a month.

You will also find that if you can make yourself cry on schedule, then you will be able to make yourself not cry when you want to do that.

Practice crying when you want to and not crying when you wish to not cry and you will have gone a long way towards learning to “regulate” your emotions.

If you find that regulating emotions is a special challenge for you, this does not mean that there is something wrong with you. It means that there is a skill, “Emotional Regulations Skill” that you still need to learn. A therapist, especially one trained in DBT, can help you learn to regulate your emotions.

For more on “behavioral experiments” like crying at will see the work of Milton Erickson.

I won’t be able to take the pain.

People sometimes think that if they talk about their pain then they will not be able to bear it. You will be able to take the pain of treatment a whole lot better than the pain of staying ill.

One place this fear comes from is the image of the old psychoanalyst making you go through all the sordid details of your life.

While I may be old, I do not think we need to dig up the whole garden of your life to find the weeds that are causing your pain today. A good therapist can help you work on the problem that brought you into treatment and then if you decide you can move on to working on past issues.

Working on our issues may be painful at times but once you face your demons and learn the skills to tame them they shrink like scared little kids.

The Therapist will spill my secrets.

Not likely to happen. Therapists and most counselors have a requirement to keep your secrets, that comes close to that old religious practice of things told under the seal of confessional are not repeated by the priest.

The law protects most client-therapist conversations. The counselor can lose their license for telling even if you committed a crime.

I have written a lot of posts about what things the counselor must report (If you are suicidal, homicidal or talk about abuse of a child, elderly person or disabled person.)

If you have specific concerns look at those posts and if in doubt ask the counselor to tell you about confidentiality before you tell them your secrets.

They will think I am crazy and lock me up.

Extremely, I say extremely low chance of this. See this post: Will they lock me up?

For more on these “therapy interfering beliefs” See the writings of the following: Aaron Beck, Judith Beck, Marsha Linehan, and Milton Erickson, to whom I am indebted for much of the inspiration for this post. Let’s hope I have not distorted their views in the retelling.

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

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6 thoughts on “Why people avoid the doctor and the therapist

    • Good point. Yes there are ways we can help that person – if – and only if – we can get them in the therapy room. Lets see if I can write more about that one in the near future. P. S. Thanks for all the support and comments.

      Like

  1. #9 Fear of the unknown.What will happen in therapy? What are you meant to say? How are you meant to act? etc…

    Very comprehensive list David, if only everyone believed in sorting problems out before they occurred and not afterwards.

    Like

  2. Reason #10: I can’t afford it. HUGE, HUGE issue. Insurance will only pay for a few sessions, and many of the best-trained and experienced therapists don’t take it at all. I’m putting off a visit to my psychiatrist right now because I just don’t have the $150 for 20 minutes of his time.

    Like

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