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5 Reasons We Resist Therapy
(and 4 Reasons We Shouldn't)

There may be no quick fix, but consider the cost of doing nothing.

I recently entered my 29th year of practice in the field of emotional health. Through the decades, I’ve seen a number of things change—from hairstyles and clothing trends to cars and technology.

One thing hasn’t changed, though: Today—as always—many people are fine with spending hundreds of dollars a year on new clothes, gadgets, slot machines, or the latest TV set on the market. And yet, many are still very reluctant to spend money on life coachingtherapy, counseling, and other forms of personal development or “self-investment."

Why? After all, people want to be happy. They want to reach their goals. They want to fight less, worry less, stress less, and enjoy more peace and satisfaction in every area of life. Hiring a coach or therapist can help with all of those goals—and so many others. So why are so many people so reluctant to “invest”?

Here are 5 theories:

1. We don’t want to face our feelings.

This is unfortunate, but also completely understandable. For example, if you are grieving a divorce or breakup, it’s “easier” to buy a new outfit than to describe your shamefear, or anxiety to a total stranger. Some people worry that if they “dive into" whatever they’re feeling, it will “unleash” something dangerous and unmanageable. Clients have said to me, “If I start crying, I don’t think I will ever be able to stop." This fear can inhibit people from seeking help. They just don’t want to “go there.”

2. We crave a “quick fix.”

Therapy and coaching are powerful processes, but rarely does either work overnight. Both require you to show up and “do the work”—often for a period of weeks or months. There’s no miracle balm when it comes to emotional well-being. From a consumer’s standpoint, commitment and dedication to emotional healing over time might not sound as tantalizing as a new tablet that can be shipped to your door in two days or less. We tend to crave a “quick fix," and that's not something that (good) therapy or coaching can promise.

3. We feel that investing in our happiness is “frivolous.”

Some people are taught at an early age that pursuing happiness is frivolous or even selfish. These lessons can become deeply ingrained. I’ve heard people say things like, “I don’t deserve to spend money on this retreat (or program). That would be frivolous.” Yet, that same person might spend hundreds of dollars on a concert ticket or a trip to Las Vegas—something that provides an instant but fleeting sense of enjoyment. Strange, right? It has become acceptable in our culture to invest heavily in our entertainment—but personal growth and healing, less so.

4. We feel ashamed to seek help.

Many people are ashamed of having “problems,” certainly too ashamed to seek help. I often hear things like, “I am a doctor, I should have my sh*t together…”; “I’m an adult, not a kid, I shouldn’t be struggling with this anymore…”; or, "I’m a CEO of a company, I manage a lot of people, I have a Ph.D.—I should be able to figure out how to stop overeating on my own!”

The truth is that everyone—no matter how mature, skilled, or educated—tends to need help from time to time. But investing in that help can be emotionally tricky. Some of us feel that seeking help means saying that we are weak, lazy, or a failure—none of which are true. Unfortunately, social stigmas associated with therapy and coaching deter some people from reaching out for help.

5. We don’t believe it will “work.”

Above all others, this is the barrier for many people. An individual might visit my website—or someone else’s—and think, “Well, sure, that all sounds great. But will coaching actually work for me? Is it guaranteed? How can I be sure I’ll get my money’s worth?”

When you order a gadget online, you can be 100 percent certain that you’ll receive your product—or your money back. When you order a slice of cheesecake from your favourite bakery, you can be nearly as certain that it will be delicious and will (temporarily) make you feel happy.

When you invest in therapy or coaching, on the other hand, there’s much less certainty. You’re not buying a snack or a product; you’re investing in an interdependent process, and in order for it to "work," you have to show up and do your part as much as the specialist you’ve hired. Investing in personal growth can feel far more complex and nuanced, and far less certain, than just buying stuff.

If you want to change your life, and you’re curious about therapy or coaching, but feel hesitant, what can you learn from all of this?

Take a moment to self-reflect. What fears, doubts, stigmas, or biases might be fuelling your reluctance? Think about what is holding you back, and why.

  1. Consider the “cost” of doing nothing. Where will you be two or three years from now, if you continue to repeat the same patterns that are making you unhappy today? What’s the “cost” of inaction, or of remaining stuck? It may be very high, indeed.
  2. Adjust your attitude. Do you need to alter how you view investing in your happiness, health, and well-being? Can you really put a price tag on your inner peace and happiness, or your family’s well-being? What is your health “worth” to you? Hopefully, quite a lot.
  3. Give yourself permission. There’s nothing “wrong” with treating yourself to beautiful things and experiences: Savour a beautiful meal at your favourite restaurant, enjoy a vacation by the lake, grab a new book, or treat yourself to a fabulous haircut. Just remember: As enjoyable as those experiences are, they are fleeting. The transformation you can create through therapy or coaching, on the other hand, can last a lifetime.

No investment offers a greater return than your investment in yourself.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Contact your qualified health provider before implementing any new personal growth tool or program and with questions about your well-being.

Written by Suzanne Gelb, PhD, JD, is a psychologist, life coach, TV commentator and author of multiple books.