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The Most Common Barriers to Seeking Psychological Help

I can’t tell you how often I hear new clients to our clinic, who have already reaped the rewards of therapy, say:

 

“I wish I did this earlier!”

 

With the right psychologist, therapy is life changing.

The truth is, most people put off seeing a psychologist until:

 

Things are really bad (and this can happen quickly – read The Slippery Slope to Depression)

A friend or loved one insists they see a psychologist

They’re so tired of feeling the way they do

 

For many people, seeing a psychologist is a last resort! Yet, surprisingly, most people are aware that psychology is an evidence-based treatment that is highly effective in improving wellbeing and mental health.

So, why do people commonly avoid seeing a psychologist?

Talking about emotions does not feel natural

Due to your culture or family of origin, you may not be used to talking about your feelings. Growing up, your family may not have shared their emotional experiences, causing you to feel awkward to talk about your emotions as an adult.

Fear of judgement

Many people feel ashamed to be struggling in their mental wellbeing. They may fear others will think they’re “crazy” or “unstable”.

Fear of making things worse

Some people feel that if they talk about their issues, it could make them worse. This occurs especially with anxiety. It’s very common to try to avoid anxiety, which includes avoiding talking about it. **NB: avoiding anxiety actually makes it worse (read Anxiety: What Makes It Worse?)

“I’m weak”

This is something we commonly hear especially from men and comes from the old aged view that struggling in your mental wellbeing is a sign of weakness. Normally, if you’ve been told to “pull up your socks” as a child, you learn that strength comes from not having difficult emotions.

Worried I’ll lose control.

Often people fear their emotions will take over, and they’ll lose control.

While these are the common reasons people tend to avoid seeing a psychologist, there are many different reasons why you may put off making that phone call. We debunk some of these myths in Ten Things a Psychologist Does not Do.

The role childhood plays in your view of mental health

Interestingly, what was modelled to you growing up has probably shaped how you view emotions and mental health.

Take a look at how your childhood may have shaped the way you view anger and sadness, for example:

Ask yourself:

  1. How did my parents respond when I was angry?
  2. How did my dad/mum express anger?
  3. How did my parents respond when I was sad?
  4. How did my dad/mum express sadness?

For example, it’s common for women to be apologetic and feel ashamed for feeling or expressing anger. **NB: expressing anger in a healthy way is asserting your needs, not to be confused with yelling or hurling abuse!

Anger in women is seen in our society as ugly and unwanted. We are told as little girls to be pleasant and polite, not to be loud and bold – for example, “a good girl is seen not heard”. A woman with needs and opinions is often referred to as “high maintenance” or a “ball breaker”.

Similarly, it’s very common for men to feel ashamed and embarrassed for showing sadness. Boys are often told from a young age to “pull their socks up” and are taught to “get on with it”. A strong message is also sent to boys and men that they’re responsible for holding up the fort when times are tough, to not crumble and “be the strong” one.

Overcoming your barriers to seeing a psychologist

Psychologists are well versed on the fears people hold when coming to see them. A psychologist will take the time to discuss your barriers and work through them with you. Psychologists are also highly attuned to your needs and will go at your pace; they will not push you to do anything you’re not ready for.

If you’re ready to take the next step to finding a psychologist, you may be interested in reading How to Find a Good Psychologist in Melbourne.

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