Should I Be Embarrassed About Going to Therapy?
Are you wondering, “How do I stop being nervous about therapy?” Therapy can be an important part of improving your mental health. It can help you come to terms with how you feel, how your brain works, and how you process things in general. Therapy is a good way to get your mind under control. However, it’s not easy for everyone, especially if therapy makes you nervous.
In general, you can become less nervous about therapy by being open with your therapist about your anxiety and using coping strategies to calm yourself. If you have extreme anxiety that interferes with therapy (such as social anxiety), you might benefit from other treatments at the same time, such as medication.
I know you’re nervous about therapy but that doesn’t mean that it won’t work for you! Below are some answers to common questions about feeling anxious or nervous before starting therapy or during your sessions.
How Do I Stop Being Nervous About Therapy?
It is not uncommon for people who are new to therapy or relatively inexperienced with it to feel nervous about their first session. Your therapist should be able to help you through the process. It is part of their job to establish a therapeutic alliance, which is what allows you to be open and trusting. If you feel nervous, it’s okay to share this with your therapist so they know how you are feeling.
Below are some additional strategies to reduce nervousness about going to therapy.
- Use relaxation techniques. If being nervous for you shows up mostly in your body, then using relaxation exercises before your first session might help.
- Bring someone along. If you are going to in-person therapy and the idea of going alone is what is making you nervous, consider bringing a friend or family member along for your first visit. Going somewhere you’ve never been before is always stressful, and having someone with you might help to alleviate worry about that part of your visit.
- Write out your thoughts. If you are mostly nervous that you won’t be able to put your thoughts into words, consider writing down your main concerns in a notebook and bringing it with you. If you become lost for words, you can simply show your therapist what you’ve written.
- Ask about medication. If the idea of therapy makes you so nervous or anxious that you completely shut down, consider asking about a referral to a psychiatrist for medication to ease your anxiety. Combining medication with therapy can make it possible for you to get over the initial hurdle of having anxiety about therapy.
- Evaluate your therapist. While you might think that your therapist is evaluating you, in reality you should also be evaluating your therapist. Does he/she have experience with the issues you want to work on? Does their personality seem to be a good fit for yours? Do they try to make you feel comfortable or push you to move too fast? It’s completely okay to switch therapists if you don’t feel it’s a good match.
- Show yourself compassion. Recognize that you are doing something difficult, and show yourself compassion if you feel nervous or anxious. Instead of fighting against your anxiety, allow yourself to feel nervous without becoming overly focused on those thoughts.
Is It Normal to Be Scared of Therapy?
While it might feel as though everyone else is comfortable with therapy and how to do it, the truth is that many people feel nervous about their first session. It’s perfectly normal to be scared of how your therapist will interact with you or how they’ll help out during the process.
If you have social anxiety and that is the reason you are going to therapy, it’s perfectly normal that you would feel anxious about talking to your therapist. They’re a stranger and they’ll be asking how you feel. You might worry that your therapist is judging you or that you won’t be able to explain how you feel.
You might wonder if your therapist will think that you’re weak or crazy for needing therapy in the first place, especially if it’s because of social anxiety. You might worry about how they’ll react when you tell them how bad things are and how much help you need with relationships.
You might even worry that nobody can help you or that therapy is just a waste of money. These are all normal thoughts when going into something new, especially with how stigmatized mental health treatment can be in our society. However, if your feelings of anxiety about therapy do not diminish after a few sessions, or if you find yourself avoiding therapy altogether, it’s important to be honest with your therapist about what is going on.
Why Do I Have Anxiety About Going to Therapy?
Are you wondering why you have anxiety about going to therapy? A common reason for this is how you view therapy itself. Do you believe that no one can help you, or do you think it’s a waste of time? A lot of people feel like they don’t deserve mental health care because “things are not that bad.”
In addition, if you have social anxiety, you might feel too anxious to speak openly with your therapist. It might feel awkward to talk about feeling anxious around strangers when your therapist is a stranger themselves. You might also worry about how your therapist will judge you. This is especially true for people who feel like there’s something wrong with how they behave, or how they act.
When you go to therapy it can be challenging to share your feelings and fears with someone else. However, doing this in a safe space where the person listening understands what you are going through and can offer tools on how to cope, can be really helpful.
The first step is knowing that you are not alone in how you feel and then being open about how anxious or nervous you are during your next session. Your therapist will understand this feeling because they have heard all kinds of stories from people who come into their office for help with anxiety.
Why Is Seeking Therapy so Hard?
It’s ironic that the thing that could be helpful can also feel very anxiety-provoking. Why is it that seeking therapy can feel so hard? Below are some common reasons for feeling that seeking therapy is hard.
- It’s hard to admit how you are feeling
- You feel like your problems aren’t that big of an issue compared to other peoples’ problems
- Your friends or family think therapy is for “crazy” people, so they don’t understand if you’re going
- You have social anxiety and are afraid to go
- You feel like you don’t have the time or money for therapy
- It’s hard enough admitting how you’re feeling, but thinking about how others might judge your decision is even more difficult
- You fear judgment from your therapist
- You’re self-conscious about how you’ll look when in your therapist’s office (or when on video, for online therapy)
- You’re afraid that your therapist will be unhelpful and not listen to you
How Do I Calm Myself Before Therapy?
If seeking therapy feels hard and you have a lot of anxiety or nervousness, gathering a toolbox of strategies that you can use to calm yourself down can be helpful. These won’t replace being honest with your therapist and getting to the root of the problem, but they can help to calm you down in the moment.
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- Do a short meditation session
- Listen to calming music that makes you happy, like classical or jazz songs
- Diffuse an essential oil (eucalyptus is good for relaxation)
- Read from your favorite book to put yourself into another world
- Wear a piece of fidget jewelry to keep your hands occupied
- Write in a journal to get all of your thoughts out.
- Do a yoga class and focus on how the poses make you feel in that moment
- Spend time with friends who help you feel calm
- Call or text someone to give yourself something else to think about other than how nervous you are
- Watch a funny show or movie to change your mood
- Go for a run or do some cardio exercise (the endorphins released during this activity will help you feel more relaxed!)
Can Therapy Cause More Anxiety?
You might also wonder if therapy could cause you to have more anxiety. A good therapist should be completely non-judgmental and unbiased, meaning they should not try to convince you that your anxiety is irrational or unfounded.
A good therapist will help you identify how your anxiety manifests itself in the way you think, how it affects your life both psychologically and physically (by altering how much sleep you get for example), as well as how it interferes with how you function in the world.
If going to your therapist causes you to feel more anxious, it’s important to share that this is happening. They might be able to identify how you could make the experience more comfortable for yourself, or develop a strategy together.
Having said that, it is important to remember your therapist’s role is to gently guide you through what can feel like an overwhelming process at times. It may take time to work through difficult feelings and learn how to manage them. But that doesn’t mean you should stay stuck feeling anxious forever.
If your therapist is making things worse for you or if they are not meeting your expectations, it’s best to speak with them about how you feel as soon as possible. If you’re not comfortable bringing this up to your therapist, you could simply say that you don’t feel you are a good match and ask for a referral to someone else.
How Can I Be More Comfortable with Therapy?
Are you wondering how you can become more comfortable with therapy in general? What can you do in the actual therapy session to feel more comfortable? If so, here are some ideas to get you started:
- If going to a therapist’s office makes you anxious, consider doing online therapy so you can stay in the comfort of your home
- Accept that it may take time to become comfortable with a new therapist and show yourself compassion during the early sessions if it doesn’t feel okay right away
- Practice self-care outside of therapy sessions such as eating healthy food, getting regular exercise, avoiding caffeine before sessions, etc.
- Give yourself a reward after each session to help motivate you to keep going
- If you are doing online therapy, set up a soothing space in your home away from clutter and distractions
- If the type of therapy doesn’t seem to be helping you, ask if a different approach could be used
- Commit to at least trying to open up when you go
- Acknowledge how hard this process is going to be but how good it will feel when it’s done
How Do I Become More Comfortable with my Therapist?
In addition to being comfortable with therapy in general, you might want to know how to be more comfortable with your specific therapist. Below are some ideas to help you make this happen:
- Let them know that you don’t know how to get comfortable talking to them (it’s their job to fix this!)
- Choose a licensed professional who has the experience and qualifications to treat the issue you are presenting (so that you can feel confident in the care you are receiving)
- Ask if you can email or text about things that are hard to say face-to-face. If your in-person therapist won’t let you do this, consider switching to a service like Betterhelp that allows communication between weekly sessions.
- If you’re nervous about what to say during the first session, bring a list of your main concerns that you can read aloud or hand to your therapist
- If you feel like you are being judged, share this with your therapist. The more you get thoughts out of your head and out in the open, the more you can deal with them. Therapists are trained to be non-judgemental; if yours isn’t, this could be a sign you need a new therapist.
- Share a little bit at a time until you feel more comfortable with your therapist. Just like making a new friend, it’s normal not to feel fully comfortable right away.
Do you have tips about how to deal with feeling nervous about therapy? Be sure to share them in the comments.
Related Posts about Therapy for Social Anxiety
- 5 Benefits of CBT for Social Anxiety
- How to Use a CBT Worksheet for Social Anxiety
- 5 Types of Therapy for Social Anxiety
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How Do I Stop Being Nervous About Therapy?
Here are some of my favorite social anxiety tools
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