“What am I, sick?”: Why are we afraid of psychotherapy



“What am I, sick?”: Why are we afraid of psychotherapy

Over the past two decades, psychology has become part of our lives. And yet, most of us put off going to the psychologist. Some believe that a psychologist is needed only by those who are sick, while others do not want someone to “delve into the head.” We asked therapists to talk about the most common fears of clients and debunk myths to finally convince you: the psychologist is not an enemy, but an assistant.

Fear # 1: I learn something terrible about myself

Marina Travkova, systemic family psychotherapist

Many fear that the psychologist will “pull out” something dark and terrible from them. Another common fear is to be guilty of your own problems. It seems that the therapist will appreciate your life and tell you what was wrong with it, what mistakes you made.

In fact, the psychologist does not evaluate, condemn, and has no right to extract the dark facts of the biography from clients. You may not answer painful or seemingly inappropriate questions. The specialist is also required to take care of your condition during the consultation, creating an emotionally safe space.

In addition, we are scared and hard precisely because we are “locked” inside ourselves with our problems and secrets and cannot share them with others. At a psychologist’s appointment, we often find out that they’re not the only ones that are happening to us.

Fear # 2: the therapist will manipulate me

Vladimir Snigur, psychotherapist, hypnologist

Our imagination often endows the psychotherapist with the traits of a telepath or a manipulator that will make you lay out all the ins and outs, will be hypnotized, will delve into the past, swell past wounds …

This is far from reality. The main task of a psychotherapist is to treat any decisions of the client with respect and care and help him overcome the difficulties that have arisen. The psychologist is only a guide, he will not force you to go where you do not want, but will offer you to choose the path yourself, will accompany you and help in the most difficult areas.

Fear # 3: I will become addicted to psychotherapy

Polina Soldatova, psychologist, gestalt therapist

The therapist’s task is to help you find a way to take care of yourself. Choosing a specialist, you can focus on his approach. At the end of the first session, the therapist will offer you a contract, under which the recommended number and frequency of appointments will be determined. Usually 5-10 sessions are enough to understand if a specialist is right for you and if there is a dynamic in your work.

At any time during therapy, you can ask your questions: what is the therapist doing right now? How does he evaluate the progress of your collaboration?

You can also agree to change the frequency of meetings, pause or stop therapy.

“What am I, sick?”: Why are we afraid of psychotherapy

Fear # 4: psychotherapy doesn’t work – it’s empty talk

Natalia Kiselnikova, Deputy Director of the Psychological Institute of RAO, Head. psychological counseling laboratory

Many studies confirm the effectiveness of psychotherapy. Those who receive psychotherapeutic help demonstrate better psychological health indicators than those who only expect to work with a psychologist or do nothing at all to change the situation.

Recently, 475 studies were analyzed that compared groups of people undergoing psychotherapy with control groups. Conclusions leave no room for doubt: clients who have undergone a course of psychotherapy feel better than 80% of the participants in the control group.

In another study, it was found that by the eighth session of psychotherapy, about half of the clients had measurable improvements, and by the end of six months of weekly psychotherapy, 75% of clients noted positive changes.

Fear # 5: a psychologist will tell my loved ones about my problems

Svetlana Yablonskaya, crisis psychologist, speech therapist

One of the basic principles of a counseling psychologist is confidentiality. This means that he not only does not have the right to disclose the contents of your conversations with him to anyone, but also cannot confirm or refute the fact that you turned to him.

Limits of confidentiality: what and to whom can a psychologist tell you about you?

That is why, having met a client in a public place, we will not greet the first – not out of impoliteness, but because, perhaps, he will not want to disclose the fact of our acquaintance. But of course, we’ll be happy to answer the greeting.

Fear # 6: a therapist needs only my money

Julia Zakharova, Clinical Psychologist, Cognitive Behavioral Psychotherapist

Some clients fear that psychologists will draw money from them. Yes, indeed, psychological counseling and psychotherapy are not cheap. However, there is no guarantee that, having spent a certain amount, the client will solve his problem.

How much is psychotherapy?

It is impossible to understand in advance how many sessions are required in each case. Methods that work well with one client may not be appropriate for another. Therefore, experienced psychologists and psychotherapists devote a lot of time to setting goals and, together with clients, monitor their achievement. This helps clients see the overall direction of work, intermediate results and reduces such concerns.

Fear # 7: only sick people turn to psychologists

Alexander Pokryshkin, child psychologist, game therapist

Based on this logic, only mediocre mothers take their nanny to their child, and only criminals turn to a lawyer. If you remember that the psychologist helps to make life a little more conscious, everything becomes much easier.

It is important to understand that psychotherapy is not an extreme measure. This is a service that can be used at any time when there is a need to understand what is happening and to better understand yourself.

“What am I, sick?”: Why are we afraid of psychotherapy

Fear number 8: the psychologist will put me on pills

Valeria Fedoryak, psychologist, gestalt therapist

For starters, it’s important to deal with the terms. A psychologist is a person with a higher psychological education. Usually he is not a doctor and does not have the necessary knowledge to prescribe pharmacological treatment for you. However, the psychologist often collaborates with a psychiatrist colleague, who can refer you to consultations and appointments if necessary.

Unfortunately, many of us are afraid of psychiatrists. Punitive psychiatry of the Soviet era and numerous artistic images in cinema and literature played a role here. It is important to understand that modern reality is completely different.

Taking the right medications chosen by your doctor makes psychotherapy more effective. Thanks to the pills, a person receives a resource for working in the therapist’s office. And in the treatment of depression, for example, the combination of psychotherapy and medication is now considered the most effective approach.


Found your fear among the above? Ask yourself why this fear protects you. It is possible that its influence extends to different areas of your life, preventing you from taking important steps. Having understood what we are protecting ourselves from, we begin to see what needs to be changed, and we are open to these changes.

Alena Prikhidko

about the author

Alena Prikhidko – family therapist.

Text: Alena Prikhidko
Photo Source: Getty images

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