Browse all

How to overcome the fear of starting therapy

Some advice and a bit of data to take the plunge

How to overcome the fear of starting therapy Some advice and a bit of data to take the plunge

A few years ago, when I was 19, I found myself in a new city for study reasons. For some reason - maybe because I was intimidated by the new environment - my social wheels (which usually have some trouble anyway) completely locked up. I couldn't connect with anyone, I closed myself off in a cocoon of almost complete loneliness, horrible mood, and desperate studying, in a really tough loop to break. You know what I really needed at that moment? A psychologist or therapist, someone professionally trained to give me a hand, to help me get out of my paranoias. For some reason, though, I couldn't express this need to my parents or distant friends, only to myself. I fantasized about the moment when I would have a diagnosis, to clinically and incontrovertibly justify my isolation. However, this story has a happy ending. Years later, thanks to an initiative by the municipality of Milan, which offered free sessions in collaboration with a local association, I met my psychologist. It was trust at first sight, even though I never got my diagnosis. Because it doesn't work exactly like that, I discovered.

Why are we afraid? Myths and misconceptions about therapy

Starting therapy is scary. Starting anything new is scary, let alone allowing a professional to delve into our minds, to dismantle all our castles and little ice cream stick constructions that have allowed us to survive all these years, to judge them, to make us ashamed. The results are scary, for better or worse. And what if we find out there's nothing wrong with us? That we simply have to settle for who we are for the rest of our lives? That our fears are justified and it's not about lack of self-esteem? That the blame isn't on our parents or our traumas but entirely on us? Therapy carries with it false myths, preconceptions, and misconceptions that steer us away from embarking on this journey. There are the "old" ones, from our parents and grandparents, all covered in a thick layer of distrust towards these doctors who aren't doctors, these mind-benders. Then there are the new ones, which also come from social media. TikTok is filled with therapy talk, everyone thinks they suffer from disorders, self-diagnose, use medical and professional jargon and throw them around as if it were nothing. There are trendy and non-trendy conditions and disorders, judged as good or judged as bad. And what if we fell into the latter category?

@israajnasir Had to repost bc the old one lost the audio. Thank #universalmusic
@joenuccitherapy One of the reasons why therapy speak can be so confusing on social media all comes down to the game telephone we used to play when we were kids. Here’s how! What do you all think? Tell me in the comments! #therapy #therapistsofinstagram #trauma #traumahealing #selfhealers #mentalhealth #therapyspeak #telephone original sound - joenuccitherapy

The benefits of going to therapy

These fears are unfounded. The psychological journey is almost never based on fixed and terrible diagnoses or on words thrown out there, as if they were accusations, quite the opposite. It's called a journey for a reason, it's long and challenging, sometimes slow, but with some effort and consistency it can lead to tangible results. Nothing better to reassure the most fearful than data. According to the American Psychiatric Association, for example, 75% of people who embark on this journey benefit from it. But what are these benefits? Going to therapy improves our communication skills, both externally and internally, it makes us feel better overall. It allows us to face life with more awareness, keeps distress at bay, and when it doesn't, helps us manage and contain it. The New York Therapy Center also states, in addition to the list of benefits, the acquisition of new perspectives and the possibility of avoiding falling into depression or anxiety disorders. Finally, the Gitnux report for 2024 states that 65.9% of adults who have received some form of treatment or counseling regarding their mental health have reported feeling better and "functioning" better in their daily lives, day after day.

@imperfecttaylor 6 benefits of talk therapy! Based on my experience :) #therapytiktok #therapist #therapytok #talktherapy #mentalhealth #mentalhealthmatters original sound - Imperfect Taylor

Once started, how should we behave?

Deciding to go to therapy and taking a first step (practical! Like a call, an email, or a booking) about it are the most important things, but not obvious. The therapy is a human relationship, between professional and "patient," that needs nurturing. If you've had a few trial sessions and realized that particular person isn't right for you, maybe it's time to keep trying. If you want, also research the different approaches and types of therapy, get advice from professionals on what might be best for you. Be wary of word of mouth among friends; your therapist shouldn't also be (for example) your partner's therapist, as unpleasant entanglements could arise, preventing you from expressing yourself freely. Finding your therapist is like finding the perfect pair of jeans: you have to try on a few, cry in the fitting rooms, and wait for the moment of divine enlightenment, the white light when you find the ones that fit you perfectly. Once found, you need to be open and willing. Don't be ashamed of anything, collaborate and don't lie. Shame and judgment don't exist or shouldn't exist, in those 50 minutes, otherwise something's wrong.

@janellehettick Share any questions you may have in the comments! #therapytok #mentalhealthtok #therapyiscool #arizonatherapist The Magic Bomb (Questions I Get Asked) [Extended Mix] - Hoàng Read

Useful associations and scattered advice

The truth is that - in addition to all these hurdles, which are mostly mental - between us and a psychological treatment path, there's another, much more material one: the financial one. Unfortunately, the Italian public healthcare system is increasingly stressed and subject to cuts, and something that should be accessible to everyone is made distant and unreachable for anyone who doesn't have fixed and substantial income. In short, there's no way around it: going to therapy costs a lot, and not everyone can afford it. To overcome this problem, specific online services have been created (such as Unobravo or Serenis) that allow you to access a professional at controlled prices. Also, look into associations in your city. Often small organizations in the area offer free trials and assistance. In Milan, for example, there's Psychologist in the Park, and often some municipal initiatives allow access to session packages at convenient costs.