shy black man

What Are The Main Reasons People Think They Don’t Need Therapy?

What Are The Main Reasons People Think They Don’t Need Therapy?

This is such an interesting topic for me as I have come across various opinions and narratives around it, both in my practice experience, as well as social media. Seeing a psychologist, or going for therapy has only now become something that people are developing openness towards, especially people of colour. The stigma around seeing a psychologist is still prevalent, however, we have taken strides in the last few years to change that. Let’s take a dive straight into it:

“Crazy people see psychologists!”

The first and most long-standing reason most people think they don’t need therapy is that they still have the ingrained belief that if they see a psychologist, they are considered “crazy”, “mad”, or “weak”. According to my experience, people of colour (poc) tend to still hold this belief, fairly strongly. There is a narrative that still exists in many brown and black families around psychologists, of them only being helpful to those that are severely mentally ill or are on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The statement, “you need therapy”, is often used as an insult and sadly, has negative connotations associated with it.

I would like to begin with the definition of a Counselling Psychologist according to the Health Professions Council of South Africa. “Counselling psychology is a broad specialization within professional psychology concerned with using psychological principles to enhance and promote the positive growth, well-being, and mental health of individuals, families, groups, and the broader community.”

The reason I am providing this definition is because I would like to highlight the difference between Clinical and Counselling Psychology. Although, there are several overlaps and similarities, Counselling Psychologists, like myself, are concerned with a client’s well-being and promoting positive growth. This means that we deal with people who struggle with everyday life issues, such as self-esteem, relationship challenges, anxiety, grief & loss, self-development, trauma, abuse, motivation, depression, and the list goes on.

We are all trained in severe mental disorders, however, we also see clients that don’t have any mental disorders. This is where I would like to emphasize, that we see well-adjusted individuals, who are not “crazy”. Our clients consist of lawyers, advocates, housewives, fathers, teachers, other psychologists, CEO’s, influencers, actuaries, children, teenagers, couples that are dating, couples that are married, couples that are co-parenting, elderly and the list goes on. I am saying this because, seeing a psychologist is no reflection of your intelligence, social status, race, ethnicity, age or sexuality.

“You are weak if you see a psychologist”

Another reason people struggle to see a psychologist, which I mentioned briefly, is because they believe they lack strength in dealing with life’s challenges by themselves and visiting a psychologist will feel like admitting to defeat. POC also come from a culture that does not promote reaching out for help or leaning on others for support. We praise complete independence. This makes it difficult to get the necessary support (that we all need) from a psychologist.

“The Past Should Be Left In The Past”

There is a strong belief that speaking about the past is futile and it should be left in the past. People believe that psychologists fixate on the past, which has made them averse to therapy. The truth is, some psychologists do bring up the past during sessions, and the reason for this is that our childhoods, attachment to our caregivers and past experiences, have a major influence on our behavior, thoughts and feelings, in the present. So as much as we do not like to admit it, our pasts are important and need to be dealt with – not ruminated over. An aversion to dealing with the past, is really, just a defense mechanism called ‘avoidance’ and your brains way of trying to protect yourself from feeling painful emotions. But, it is vital in moving forward.

“Why Go To Therapy When I Can Talk To My Friend”

This one is probably one of the most common narratives that I hear. Psychologists go through 7/8 years of rigorous training to be able to do what they do. Therefore, it cannot be as simple or as effective as talking to a friend about your problems. I would like to emphasize under this point, that psychologists do not sit and listen to you talk for an hour. The first few sessions, where they are gathering as much information as possible might feel like this, but therapy is a lot more complex than that.

Furthermore, psychologists don’t give advice. We are not the experts of your lives, so we cannot tell you what to do or what is best for you. Psychologists work with what is in your unconscious, how this is affecting your behavior and thoughts now, where this is stemming from, hold your emotions so that you can heal, point out aspects of yourself & those around you that you have never noticed, and so on. We do not provide you with tips on how to deal with something. You can easily find that on the internet. So, no, going to therapy with a psychologist is not equivalent to talking to a friend.

“My Problems Aren’t That Important Compared To Other People”

This is something I often hear with people who minimize their issues, believe they are overly-sensitive or overreacting, struggle to put themselves first and are of the opinion that they are a burden to others. This, likely, goes back to their own childhoods and experiences of feeling like they were “too much” for their caregivers. Believing that other people’s problems are much more important is severely invalidating to oneself and possibly the root cause of most of their relational issues. Psychologists do not compare the severity of one client’s issues with another. Your reality and experiences are just as important as anyone else. Please keep that in mind.


“I Struggle To Open Up & I Don’t Want My Psychologist To Judge Me”

Similar to the above point, people with these beliefs often struggle with self-esteem, self-worth, vulnerability and people-pleasing. I must admit, even for myself, seeing a psychologist can be anxiety-provoking. It is normal to feel that and all psychologists are aware of this. At Conscious Psychology, we approach this topic in the first session for all our clients so that you can feel more at ease. You must remember, we live in a society that doesn’t always accept vulnerability, so speaking to a complete stranger can be uncomfortable, especially if you struggle to open up. But I always encourage clients to bring this up in their first session. It is a great way to begin the process of therapy and will assist your psychologist in conceptualizing you and giving you the most appropriate care possible.

“Therapy Is Expensive And I Don’t Have Time”

Yes, therapy can be expensive, however there are so many options. At Conscious Psychology, we often speak to clients, in the first session, around their financial situation and how to tailor therapy, considering their finances. There are also other options like Prescribed Minimum Benefits (PMB) which are available to those that are on a medical aid. It is available on ANY plan. You would just need to speak to your psychologist about it and they will assess whether you qualify. This will cover up to 15 sessions per year.

Secondly, I always say, if you have time for one episode of your favourite show on Netflix (per week!), then you have time for therapy. Therapy is 50 minutes per week or bi-weekly, depending on your needs. It can even be done online, in the comfort of your home, or during your break at work. There really are no excuses.

There are several other reasons why people are averse to therapy but these are some of the points I hear most frequently. I would love to discuss more on this topic with you. If you have any points or questions, feel free to contact me and we can chat.

Hope I cleared up some myths around seeing a psychologist for you. Be sure to look out for part 2 of this series in the next coming days.

Yours truly,

Sanam Naran

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *