Barriers To Seeking Therapy

Seeking help from a psychologist, psychiatrist, or other counselor can be a great way to get through a rough patch, get some perspective, or optimize your life. But not everyone feels comfortable taking that step.

There are millions of people out there, perhaps even you or someone you love, who could benefit from a few sessions with a good psychologist, psychiatrist, or other counselor but it takes strength to seek help and know-how to get in the door.

Here are 5 common barriers to seeking treatment and how you can convince yourself (or someone you love) to overcome them:

  1. I can fix myself

In an independent, self-reliant culture like ours, seeking help is often equated with weakness. Truthfully, getting help is a sign of strength and courage.  There’s no shame in taking your car to a mechanic, you wouldn’t treat a broken leg on your own, right? The same should be true for depression, addiction, or any other affliction that’s sucking the life out of you.

Men in particular, often have an aversion to therapy because they believe they can—or should—handle it themselves.

Therefore, if you’re dealing with a macho man who could use a mental health tune-up, link the idea of going to therapy to his existing beliefs about individual peak performance.  For instance, “A few sessions with a good coach would bring you back to your old unstoppable self.”

  1. Therapy is too expensive

Therapy can be expensive, and financial matters can get murky but here are a few ways to navigate the issues of cost;

If you have health insurance, you might be covered for psychotherapy and/or substance abuse treatment.  Call your insurance company and ask what your behavioral health coverage includes.  While you’re at it, ask them for a list of psychologists in your area who take your plan.

See if your employer has an Employee Assistance Program, or EAP, available as part of your benefits. In general, EAPs offer short-term counseling for employees and immediate family, including help with drug or alcohol abuse, emotional distress (like depression or anxiety), stress management, debt counseling, non-work-related legal issues, and more.

To go the private practice route, search online for “mental health practitioners in Kenya”  reach out to 0800 220 000 or search “Chiromo hospital group”.

  1. “I’m not crazy”

Many people worry that going to therapy means they’re “crazy” or “out of control.”  In reality, people go to therapy for all sorts of reasons: personal growth, coaching through a rough patch, to get a neutral outside perspective, to optimize their life, to change a habit, and many more. Most importantly, they go because they want to make a change but don’t know how to start.

If perceived stigma is standing between a loved one and treatment, you may wish to help them view therapy as lessons, coaching, consultation, or skills training.

A friendly professional will ask questions about symptoms, help you challenge ineffective ways of thinking and acting and teach you some new skills.

  1. Fear of hospitalization

Here in Kenya, the reasons for involuntarily hospitalizations include but are not limited to; 1) you are an immediate danger to yourself, meaning you plan to attempt suicide, 2) you plan to kill a specific, identified person (NOT just, “I’m so mad, I could kill someone!”); and 3) you’re gravely disabled, which means you cannot feed, house, or clothe yourself because of a mental illness.

If your mind works well enough to ponder whether this means you, you probably do not need an admission.

The most likely option for most individuals contemplating therapy is seeing an outpatient provider.

  1. Having a bad experience in the past with therapy

Not every lid goes with every pot. Unfortunately, there are a lot of incompetent therapists out there. Therapists, just like human beings, have varying levels of competence. One bad session shouldn’t keep you from finding your match.

Get a recommendation from a friend or look at reviews online. Cross-reference the list of psychologists from your insurance with therapists’ websites and choose someone with a philosophy that seems to fit you.

Don’t be afraid to shop around. Try on therapists as you would try on a new suit or test-drive a new car.


Messias, E., Eaton, W., Nestadt, G., Bienvenu, O.J., & Samuels, J. (2007).  Psychiatrists’ ascertained treatment needs for mental disorders in a population-based sample.  Psychiatry Services, 58, 373-7.

Pagura, J., Fotti, S., Katz, L.Y., Sareen, J., & Swampy Cree Suicide Prevention Team.  (2009).  Help seeking and perceived need for mental health care among individuals in Canada with suicidal behaviors.  Psychiatric Services, 60, 943-9.

Springer, K.W. & Mouzon, D.M.  (2011).  “Macho men” and preventative health care: implications for older men in different social classes.  Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 52, 212-27.

Article By: Catherine Ng’ang’a.

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