Therapy saves lives, changes relationships, and makes it possible to see hope again when times are tough. Yet many people are highly reluctant to try therapy. The stigma associated with mental illness, coupled with the notion that therapists judge their patients and don’t offer much help, can keep even people in desperate need of help from seeking it.
Help! I’m Afraid My Therapist Will Judge Me!
Therapy is a place where you can share your thoughts and feelings free of judgement. This alone is often enough to inspire powerful change. But what if you’re still afraid of being judged by your counsellor? Here’s what you need to know.
Acceptance, Not Judgement, in Therapy
It’s easy to feel judged in the harsh world we all live in. From parents who never think you’re good enough to the sibling who is always competing with you, the shame associated with constant judgement sharply stings, and can severely undermine mental health.
Counsellors are taught, from the earliest days of their training, to listen with an open mind, free of judgement. You should not feel judged by your therapist, though a good therapist should make recommendations about actions you can take to live a happier life.
The Role of Confidentiality In Counselling
Therapy is a place to freely share your feelings, even when you’re ashamed of them. To protect the sacred space that therapy provides, therapists are required to keep their clients’ secrets, even when they disagree with their clients’ behaviour. Your therapist cannot tell anyone else what you share in therapy, not even your spouse, parents, or child. Your counsellor is only permitted to break confidentiality if he or she believes you pose an immediate threat to yourself or others—even then, your therapist can only break confidentiality enough to protect you, not widely share your secrets with the world.
Respect for Different Lifestyles
We all have our own approach to the world, influenced by culture, religion, early family experiences, and so much more. Most of us believe that our way of viewing the world is the “right” one. For a counsellor, things are different. Counsellors are trained to respect a wide variety of choices and lifestyles. When you share your views in therapy, your counsellor works to help your life adapt to your views—not to make you change your mind about the issues that matter most to you. Rest assured that your therapist judges neither your lifestyle nor your beliefs.
Why Honesty Matters
If you’re anxious about being judged in counselling, you might opt not to share certain information about yourself. Counsellors know this, which is why the best therapists work so hard to make it clear that they are uninterested in judging their clients. If you are concerned about feeling judged, don’t shy away from discussing this issue honestly and openly with your therapist.
Once you have some reassurance that your counsellor is not interested in judging you, it’s time to begin opening up. Honesty matters in therapy. Indeed, there’s a compelling argument to be made that honesty may determine how effective therapy is. If you can’t open up about your feelings, you cannot change your life. Moreover, the feelings and actions of which you are most ashamed are very likely the ones you most need to discuss in in therapy. So if you feel uncomfortable talking about it, rest assured that this is a sign that you need to talk about it! And don’t worry, your therapist really has heard it all before.