Seriously, I think people wonder this all the time. I often hear phrases like, “I should be able to handle this on my own,” or “Why is it helpful to talk to someone else about my problems? I need to just get over them.” It's completely understood that coming in for therapy can actually increase anxiety and possibly other symptoms initially. And for a small amount of people, talking about their issues may not help them to gain insight or change their behavior in a way that is effective. I would say that in my anecdotal experience (which pretty much falls in line with what the research suggests), most people benefit from therapy in the long-term, even though it may be uncomfortable in the short-term.
I am a visual person and I love metaphors, so I will use an analogy with you. Say you are going hiking in the mountains. You've got a huge pack on your back with all your belongings, you are setting out for a 100+ mile hike, and you're on your own. Maybe when you first start out and you're on your first 20 miles, things are going well. You feel strong, you notice all the beauty that is our outdoors, and you're feeling happy and content. Then, something happens – maybe there's a huge rainstorm and your boots are soggy, you get blisters, maybe you even have a fall and hurt yourself. Maybe a bear steals all your food, and you're left without any until the next time you get into town. Maybe you just start feeling lonely and sad because you haven't seen anyone else on the trail yet. Whatever it is, this “something” is tough to handle on your own.
You might even feel lost or scared, wondering which direction to take or second-guessing yourself. Most people, at this time in the hike, are relieved when they run into a fellow hiker or when someone acts kindly, just because. Ideally, what will happen is maybe you'll meet up with someone who helps bandage you up, shares their food, and hikes with you to the next apex. Once you both summit together, you can stand around, share the beautiful view, and then maybe you go on your separate ways after that point – when you're strong enough to be back on your own.
So, I'm sure you guessed it, but the hike is life, and those missteps along the way are all the struggles that we ultimately go through, because – well – we're human. They are an inevitable part of life. I know that so much stigma exists around coming into a therapist's office and bearing your vulnerabilities, and I understand why. We are afraid that we will be judged, laughed at, or maybe we're even scared that what is going on for us isn't "enough" to warrant therapy. But I'll tell you what - most of us, the good ones at least, are here to help you mend, heal, and we really want more than anything for you to not need us. We don't judge you, we certainly don't think you're weak, and we don't talk about your struggles outside of our office doors. Whatever is bringing you into our office is valid and deserves attention and compassion.
I'm curious to know what people's experiences have been with therapy – has it been helpful? Do you fear coming in and talking about what is going on for you? I often let folks I'm meeting for the first time know that sometimes shopping around and finding a good fit is necessary. We don't all click with the first person we meet. So, shop around if you need to, and know that there is a therapist out there who is excited to hear your story and help you reach your next mountaintop.