Why people avoid the doctor and the therapist

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

What are your reasons for avoiding getting your problems treated?


Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

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 fear’s 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 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 the 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. They 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 learning 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. At 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 the confessional is 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 repeat an 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.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

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

  1. 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.


  2. #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.


    • 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.


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