Asking for Help: It’s Hard

Asking for Help: It’s Hard by Sharon Martin, LCSW

Have you been thinking about trying counseling? Have friends or family members suggested you see a counselor? What’s keeping you from asking for help?

Asking for Help by Sharon Martin LCSW

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I very often see people who have been suffering for a long time before finally deciding to come to therapy. Let’s take a look at some of the things that hold people back.

  • It means I’m really messed up
  • It means I’m weak.
  •  I should be able to figure this out on my own
  • I’m not sure I really need help
  • Time will fix things
  •  I’m afraid
  • Therapy is for crazy people
  • I don’t think counseling will help
  • I don’t have the time or money

Many of these involve judgment (either self-judgment or fear of judgment from other). You may negative assumptions or beliefs about what it means to see a counselor. This breeds a sense of shame; that you are different and less than everyone else; that there is fundamentally something wrong with you. Yes, there is still stigma, especially in some communities and cultures, about therapy or mental health care. For most of us though, we have friends or family who are or have been in therapy. Sometimes we just don’t know it because we don’t talk about it. I can assure you that most people coming to therapy are very normal, functional people who have gotten stuck. Asking for help takes courage and strength.

Most new clients come to therapy with some degree of anxiety about the therapy process and experience. This is completely normal. Most people feel anxious about new situations and experiences. And the anxiety lessens the more you come to counseling.

Unfortunately, many problems don’t get better by simply waiting and letting time do the healing. Time may dull the pain, but it is often just buried under the surface. More often, I see that problems get worse the longer you wait to seek help.

Lack of time and money are actually the easiest barriers to solve. Once you have decided you want/need and deserve therapy, you will make the time. It might mean letting go of another commitment for a while, but most people can find a couple hours per week. Let’s face it, most of us waste more than an hour every week surfing the web or watching TV. And you have options for making therapy more affordable – using health insurance or EAP benefits, using a non-profit agency with a sliding fee scale, or adjusting your budget to accommodate the expense.

If you are feeling hopeless, and don’t think therapy (or anything else) will help, I suggest you give it a few sessions to find out for sure. This probably isn’t enough time to make huge changes, but it is enough time to see if you might feel more hopeful.

I hope you’ll give counseling a try and give yourself the opportunity to grow and heal. Asking for help is hard, but it’s usually worth it!

Sharon Martin, a licensed counselor and psychotherapist in Northern California, specializes in helping adult children of alcoholics and others who struggle with anxiety, perfectionism, and self-criticism. She has a private psychotherapy practice in CA where she is available for online counseling. Sharon is also the author of The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism and write the blog Conquering Codependency for Psychology Today.