Psychologist Questions Psychotherapy

How can I get over a fear of going to a psychologist?

I really want to go to a psychologist, but I'm embarrassed and fearful of immediately closing up when I meet with them. How can I overcome this? I feel stuck.

18 Answers

You might have some real basis for this type of fear such as a previous bad experience with a helping professional. If the fear is specific to a psychologist then try seeing another level of professional such as Licensed Clinical Social Worker. If this is not an option, maybe you can do some reading on the subject and ask yourself what might be embarrassing or super scary about going to a psychologist. You can work in therapy at your own pace and with subject matter that feels safer in the beginning and work up to deeper discussions if you have a good rapport with the provider.

Dr. Martinez
Hi, I suggest that you find a psychologist that is certified in ISTDP. They are trained to immediately address and help you deal with your ambivalence and with "closing up." It is difficult, but obviously there is a part of you that wants to change and have a better quality of life, and a side that is very fearful of any kind of change. I hope the healthy side wins over the battle on the will to change.
Walk in to the therapist office and say exactly that....”I’m nervous to be here.” We know the hardest visit is the first and are prepared to make you feel at ease. The first visit is to about you and to give you a chance to see if you would like to partner with the psychologist to work toward some change in your life. We are not judges, moral police, or parents to our clients. And always remember, you are the consumer and if it’s not a good fit, you don’t have to return.
Going to therapy can be intimidating! But if you meet with the right provider, he/she should put you at ease. It may be helpful to schedule a phone consultation to get a sense of if the therapist is the “right fit” for you.
I would encourage you to share your fear with your psychologist during the initial session. That may lead to a very interesting discussion that perhaps will shed light on other significant interpersonal exchanges in your life. Good luck, Dr. Hirshfeld
Embarrassment, which is related to the core emotion of shame, is something all humans experience. Often we are relieved when we can admit our hesitation to say or do something because we are fearful about the possibility of experiencing shame. As well, when we can express what it is that creates shame in us to someone who is accepting and helps us understand why we feel the way we do, it can be a tremendous relief. So if an individual closes up when they meet a therapist, hopefully the therapist will be able to recognize the difficulty and help the patient learn from it.
The opportunity to have the entire attention of a professional psychologist who is trained to listen and in which any and all information will not leave the four walls you are sitting in with your psychologist is a rare gift. It is understandable that at first this situation might make one anxious; in fact, it would be unusual if one didn't feel anxious about speaking about personal issues with a stranger. Recognize this is normal and that you have the luxury to take your time and go at your own pace in opening up and sharing the personal issues that brought you to therapy. If you are uncomfortable after the first session, you are under no obligation to continue, barring in mind that you initial anxiety will likely diminish as you become more comfortable with your psychologist. Try and make an effort to attend at least a couple of sessions before whether or not you want to continue with this particular psychologist. Feel free to ask questions from your therapist. It is a misconception that psychologists just listen and will reveal nothing about themselves or how they work. Remember, you are in control as to whether you wish to continue and you will want to know something about your therapist and his/her background and training as well as what their initial perception of what you are there to talk about and how they believe they might be able to help you with these issues. You are the consumer and not beholden in any way to a therapist in an initial therapy session as well as throughout the the course of your treatment.
Just remember that a psychologist is human, has chosen the profession as a way of giving to another person. You and the psychologist are on the same side.

Dr. Claire PSY. D.
Please call me at 310-880-3825 what you are feeling is normal. It is courageous to speak up and get help. I can help.
This is a very common fear and any experienced therapist will likely have had several clients who initiated treatment exactly as you described. I know I certainly have!

And in each instance, it was my responsibility, as a therapist, to establish my clients' trust and help them overcome their reluctance and resistance. It made working with these clients that much more fulfilling for me and strengthened the effectiveness of therapy for the client.
Many psychologists, including myself, will allow a new client to ask questions on the telephone regarding the work that they do. During this time frame a potential client can determine to some extent whether or not he/she would feel comfortable working with the psychologist with whom he/she is speaking. Attending counseling will feel like you are simply sitting down with a caring person and discussing your problems. A psychologist should never push you to talk about issues that you are not ready to discuss. Therapy should occur at a pace with which you feel comfortable. Psychologists are trained to help people feel more comfortable talking about their issues. If you "close up" the psychologist will help you feel more comfortable talking. Just remember, no one will force you to complete an individual session in which you are not feeling comfortable or if you feel like you are not being respected. You always have the option to simply get up and leave if you would like.
Realize that they are not psychics nor do they have special powers. They cannot reads your mind, even if they appear too. They are normal individuals. Maybe you should talk to one online before you go see them in person
I can't speak for all psychologists, but I think most understand how difficult it is for people to open up to a complete stranger. There's usually a decent amount of time spent building rapport and a good counselor isn't going to push you past your comfort level with regard to the therapeutic relationship. At the same time, a little pushing is sometimes just what we need to step out and make healthy changes. One thing I'm sure of, if you don't try, you'll never know.
Try online or phone therapy first. This could introduce you to the process, and make you feel more comfortable.
It is normal to be apprehensive in disclosing one's fears and apprehensions. A skilled psychologist will know how to listen and provide the assurance needed for a therapeutic session.
Please keep in mind this reply is for information only and does not constitute treatment.

It sound like you are in a chicken/egg situation where you don't know how to start. Maybe you can think a little bit about if you afraid of specific kinds of situations with the psychologist? Do you have a good friend you trust who has also seen a therapist? You might be able to ask them if they had any of these fears and how they overcame them to start therapy.

Most mental health providers know it is tough for folks to trust a stranger with very personal information and work hard so that the folks coming to see them feel comfortable. Some clients choose to start off in therapy with a less intense issue and then add in other concerns as they trust their therapist more as time goes by.

In some cases, just booking the first session and absolutely committing to going to it can show you that the real situation is not as bad as your fears. That is helpful for some people, they just jump in. This concern is something you could mention when scheduling the appointment so the psychologist knows you are feeling very nervous and can help you get more comfortable during the start-up.
The question is really what aspect of going to a psychologist causes you to be anxious. You do go to the dentist, do you not? And yet he or she might find a cavity, and even cause you a little pain in repairing it. And you probably consult people who might diagnose a problem with your air conditioner or your car that they can fix. Psychologists are no different, except that their specialty is to help with your thoughts and feelings. They don't judge you for having the problem any more than a plumber judges you for having a sticky faucet.

So treat your upcoming visit as if you are consulting any professional you are familiar with - if you don't like the person, don't hire him or her - find another!

Good luck!


Marian K. Shapiro
Licensed Psychologist
Just go in... We don't bite... promise :-)