The Fear of Beginning: How to get unstuck when you want to start therapy but you’re too scared

In my practice, I often hear people stuck on the fence about starting therapy.  I get it! I hemmed and hawed for years before doing the deep emotional work I needed to do to break free (spoiler alert: IT WAS WORTH IT!!). It was never that I wasn’t ready to do it… because there is never a perfect time to do this kind of stuff. It was that I was SCARED.  Fear does a wonderful job of keeping us frozen from taking action.  It would be easy for me to say to you, feel the fear and do it anyway but sometimes the fear is so debilitating that any action at all feels impossible.  To that, I say look at the pros and cons.  These can include real life reasons, excuses, fears, hopes, and honest truths.  So, let’s begin.  If you are thinking about coming into therapy and feel stuck in taking action, take out some paper right now and start writing all the cons you have around beginning. Then, do the same with the pros.

Some cons you might have are that it’s scary to go into the past and feel some of the old feelings that never got felt as a way of getting unstuck.  It’s also scary to trust someone you haven’t met with the most vulnerable of feelings.  Side note: feeling and dealing with the present and past so you can change your future can feel uncomfortable because all growth has it’s pain points.

Pros that I see in most people are that they are stuck and coming to therapy will help you get unstuck.  I have confidence that we could move things (thoughts and feelings) within by processing to get you to a place of feeling more confidence giving you more freedom to make decisions that will move you forward.  I also see pros that you could feel better and get less triggered, less bogged down by present day circumstances that come up. You could grow in resiliency! The same things that have been holding you down and bothering you for years could resolve… then you get to build on top of that. You might even make goals because you feel so good and start taking action to accomplish them. Some of my favorite therapy work comes after the trauma has been resolved and people start taking courageous action to change their lives.

I could also see a con might be the fear that you would be in therapy for ever.  This is a common one but I assure you I don’t want you to be in therapy forever too.  I have seen people who could only come in for a few sessions make amazing progress in one area of their lives.  People that stay in therapy for a few years are the ones that usually have A LOT of trauma (think, the worst of the worst kind of abuse).  Most people fall somewhere in between depending on how many areas they want to work on. A pro would be that I offer EMDR which is like doing a bunch of therapy sessions in one.

Now go inside and think about all the pros… picture not coming…what will life look like?  Perhaps you feel a temporary feeling of relief from getting to avoid doing the emotional work.  Just like putting off anything, it will most likely stay the same… you’ll keep getting what you’re getting, overtime it will pile up and could even get worse. Now picture coming in to do therapy and what life could look like. You might feel a moment of fear here. Sometimes people get afraid of the change because the new place they will be living from is unfamiliar.  Also you don’t know me or any other therapist from Adam.  It’s scary to open up to a complete stranger.  I get it.  That’s why we have therapists.  They know how to help us to open up even when it’s scary, unlike friends and family who might never know how to ask about the stuff hidden inside you, let alone know how to treat it. Fear of beginning does not mean that we shouldn’t move forward, it simply means that we are scared of uncertainty (even though the changes will be for the better!)  How often do we stay in bad relationships because we have been friends or dating partners for years?  Our need for familiarity mixed with our strength of loyalty combined with our irrational fears that we will be alone keep us there. How often do people continue to allow others to trigger them….think family members… when there are actual things we could do to both reduce the triggers and change the behavior by increasing boundaries, vulnerability and our reactions?

Change can be scary, but trust me, it is much harder to stay in dysfunction than to do the temporary hard work and live in freedom.  It’s up to you what you decide to do, but I think we all benefit from letting someone join in on the work and help us to recognize our own self sabotaging patterns. Even better when that person has a masters degree and extra training in how to help overcome the patterns! AND it’s totally confidential so EVERYTHING stays in the room (unless you’re suicidal or going to hurt someone else).

Just like taking your first rollercoaster ride, feel the fear and do it anyway. Take deep breaths.  Get your body to the first session even if you still feel anxious.  I still get anxious going to therapy because being vulnerable feels risky to all of us.  The feeling can turn into excitement if you breathe and trust God that while it could feel bumpy because of emotions and resistance that come up along the way, it’s more fun to get on the ride than to sit on a bench, scared, and watch everyone else live their best lives.  You are worth it!!!

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