Should I Be Scared About Therapy?
Fear is a common emotion we all experience when there is a perceived threat to our sense of security or well-being. Sometimes, it can spur us to take action against the threat. Other times, it can cause us to do anything possible to avoid facing the threat or its causes. Fear is a common emotion we all experience at some time or another. We typically seek therapy for our fears and other mental health concerns in an effort to find healthy ways to alleviate them. But what happens when fear centers around seeking therapy?
Four Common Fears People Have About Therapy
Weekly counseling sessions or even a few weeks of intensive therapy at a Los Angeles inpatient rehabilitation treatment center, like Hillcrest Adolescent Treatment Center, can provide support and insight as your teen explores their issues and gains a better understanding of themselves. But for some, some deep-seated fears and concerns hinder their ability to seek or accept treatment.
Fear of “Falling Apart”
We all build walls to protect ourselves. Your teen is not an exception to this rule. From early childhood, we strive to put strong defensive systems in place, which we use to keep us moving forward during challenging and even traumatic times. When people consider seeking therapy, there is often an understanding or expectation that those defense systems they have worked so hard to build and reinforce must come down. This realization brings about the fear that we may just entirely fall apart once those defenses are gone. By giving in to feelings of anxiety, sadness, loss, or loneliness (or any other mental health symptom), emotions will become overwhelming, and recovery will be impossible.
This is a genuine fear, especially if your teen has been using defenses and walls as a means of coping with their mental health for some time. It is essential to remember that the relationship your teen builds with their therapist and the therapy process itself will gradually make it feel safer to loosen the ties that hold those walls together. Therapy is about trusting that emotions and feelings felt during therapy often do not present until one is ready and able to manage them.
Fear of Being Judged or Shamed
Teens often struggle to open up to family and friends about intensely personal issues such as mental health. The idea of opening up to a complete stranger may seem not only odd but potentially terrifying. If your teen typically keeps their problems and concerns to themselves, it is reasonable to assume that vocalizing these emotions out loud can be unpleasant. Questions arise, such as is my therapist judging me? Do they like me? Do they think I am “crazy”? Will they embarrass or shame me when I open up and share my fears and feelings? These are all valid questions and a large part of what hinders teens from acknowledging how helpful therapy may be.
In reality, therapists and counselors go through years of training and personal development to ensure they can be fully present for their clients. They will not judge, shame, or impose their own thoughts and opinions on those they are there to help. It is the therapist’s job to provide a safe, confidential, and empathic space for your teen to explore the darkest corners of their emotions and fears. Therapy can help bring feelings buried deep within to the surface, allowing them to be confronted and worked through. When your teen can be more aware of their emotions, and their issues are laid out in front of them, they are more easily discussed, and recovery can begin.
Fear of Seeming Different, Weird, or Abnormal
Many teens struggle to fit in. The adolescent and teen years are often a mix of new and lost relationships, changing friendships, new loves, lost loves, cliques, and academic challenges. All the while, your teen is attempting to forge their unique identity and maintain their mental health. Even for an adult, all of these constant changes and challenges would be exhausting! One of the most significant worries many teens face is that of being considered different. Teens want to feel like part of something, and when they fear being ostracized for being weird or “abnormal,” it can be a devastating blow to their self-esteem.
A common fear of many is that people (friends, peers, co-workers, even family) will think you’re “mad” or “have a problem” if you are seeking mental health treatment. Your teen must understand that therapy is for anyone, not just those with severe mental health issues. Any problem that is getting in the way of your teen living their life to its fullest is work exploring with the help of someone disconnected from their immediate circle. It doesn’t matter if the others in their life agree with, understand, or support their decision to seek treatment. Therapy can be a way of creating the life they want, rather than enduring the symptoms that are part of the life they have.
Fear of Becoming Dependent
Some people fear seeking therapy because they are afraid that they will always need therapy once they start. When therapy is going well, it is not uncommon for clients to build a positive attachment to their therapist. After all, he or she is the one who “understands” or “gets” you. A therapist is a person who supports your teen week after week as they tackle emotions, behaviors, fears, and issues that are a source of disruption in their lives. Over time, your teen may even begin to look forward to their sessions as they start to see positive changes resulting from therapy.
While highly beneficial, the relationship your teen builds with their therapist is not a dependent one. It is a relationship that fosters and nurtures growth. Depending on the situation, therapy may take weeks, months, for years, but in the end, it is not permanent or lifelong. Clients often decide when they are ready and will work with their therapist to manage ending therapy so that they’re not left with loose ends.
Fear of Medication and Hospitals
Sometimes, when people think about mental health, the first images that pop to mind are medications. These mental images are only further propagated by the stigma that still, unfortunately, surrounds mental health and mental health treatment and by how cinema and television portray mental health. When teens consider or are approached about seeking mental health treatment, one of the first concerns that often arises is the idea of being medicated or having to take medications forever. It is essential to note that medication is not used for everyone in all situations. There are many cases where medication is not used at all. Whether or not medication would be part of your teen’s treatment program is a decision made as part of a larger conversation with your teen’s mental health provider or primary care provider.
Depending on their diagnosis, symptoms, and other underlying physical or mental health conditions, a decision can then be made whether medication may help with the recovery process. It is also essential to clarify that medication is often not permanent. When, or if, your teen’s mental health team suggests medication during their treatment or recovery, it does not mean that your teen will be on medication for the rest of their life. In some cases, medication is used on a short-term basis to help alleviate some of the stronger symptoms.
Why Therapy Can Be Beneficial
Despite increasing acceptance and public awareness around mental health, there are still stigmas associated with seeking help from mental health professionals like those here at Hillcrest. Whether it’s the fear that people will think you’re “crazy” or the fear of opening up to a complete stranger, there is often significant resistance around the idea of seeking mental health treatment. The truth is, seeking therapy is often a highly beneficial course of action for many different situations.
Therapy can teach your teen many things they need to know about recovery, self-care, and handling triggering situations in healthy ways. However, recovery goes beyond self-care, and therapy can help your teen develop the healthy habits they need to continue a happy, symptom-free life beyond treatment.
Finding the right therapist can be a challenge. It is essential that you and your teen take the time to research all of the options and treatment models to find what will work best for your teen. It is only through this careful research process that your teen will find a person with whom they can develop a trusting relationship and build a genuine connection. A good therapist can provide the right type of unbiased insight into your teen’s recovery. They can provide evidence-based, individualized tips that can help your teen get to the root of their emotions and work towards their recovery goals. At Hillcrest, our trained team of therapists, medical providers, and treatment staff will work with you and your teen to ensure their treatment program meets their unique needs. Everyone experiences mental health differently. While two people may have the same clinical diagnosis, their symptoms and experiences with the illness may be worlds apart. For this reason, all treatment models must be uniquely developed to meet each person’s specific needs. Whether it’s an outpatient treatment in a private therapy office or inpatient treatment in a residential care setting like Hillcrest, one size fits all treatment planning does not work well for anybody.
Is it natural to be afraid to start therapy? Absolutely. Your teen may experience these fears when they talk with you about whether seeking mental health treatment might help them with their daily struggles and experiences. It is important to remember that shame should not inhibit your teen’s ability to seek help on the road to recovery. Recovery is about remembering who you are and using your internal strengths to become the person you were meant to be regardless of mental health struggles. By seeking therapy and through learning self-care, your teen will learn to find themselves again. Mental health is as important as physical health, and seeking mental health treatment is equally as important as attending an annual physical.
If your teen is ready to seek treatment or are a parent looking for ways to alleviate your teen’s fears around therapy and mental health, reach out to the caring and compassionate team at Hillcrest today.