This summer I participated in an 8-week out-patient program during which, I was required to participate in group therapy sessions twice a week. For me, group therapy was a combination of two things that make me anxious: sharing my feelings and people. Once during the session, I equated group therapy to waiting in line for the guillotine. Sharing your issues with a group of people that you barely know while two psychologists take notes isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do.
That’s when I started to think: being in therapy takes guts and for those of us in therapy, I don’t think we acknowledge how brave we are for baring our souls to individuals who are essentially complete strangers.
Here are 5 reasons I think being in therapy takes courage.
1. You’re asking for help.
This may not seem like a big deal, but for a person like me who is extremely independent and who doesn’t want to burden anyone, asking for help is extremely difficult. For so long I’ve had the deluded idea that asking for help is a sign of weakness, but I’m slowly learning that it’s a sign of strength. It takes courage to ask for help when you’re feeling vulnerable.
2. You’re admitting you have a problem.
By admitting that you’re struggling you’re making the problem real. Often by admitting there’s something wrong in your life or in your behaviour means getting over yourself. Letting go of your ego isn’t an easy thing to do.
3. You’re being vulnerable to a stranger.
I have major trust issues. There are very few people that I trust enough to open up to, and they’re mostly in my immediate family. I have been betrayed by people close to me so many times in my life that I’ve developed a fear of sharing my feelings.
Opening up in therapy means getting over yourself and the fear of judgement. Speaking to a therapist, especially in the first few sessions, means exposing yourself to a complete stranger. Despite knowing about client confidentiality, I often wonder if the therapist talks about me to other people. I wonder if they think I’m crazy, or worse I wonder if they believe me.
4. You’re confronting your issues.
Maybe you have problematic behaviour that’s hard to come to terms with. Like, maybe you drink or do drugs and don`t want to admit to yourself that you have a problem, let alone admitting it to a stranger with a notepad.
But more often than not, therapy sessions require you to rehash a hurtful past and this often drudges up feelings that you have long buried. I often dread going to therapy because I know I will be emotionally drained by the end of the session.
5. You’re trying to change.
Change is scary, especially if you’ve behaved a certain way your entire life. You’ve adopted coping skills that have helped in times of extreme stress or danger and maybe those skills are no longer necessary. For me, I’m trying to work on my trust issues, assertiveness, and perfectionism. These coping mechanisms have worked to protect me in the past, but now they are interfering in my life. Addressing these issues are hard and changing them is even more difficult.