Why Therapy Is Not For Me (but actually might be)

1. I want to get through it on my own.

We live in a society that places a lot of value on independence, but in truth, we are interdependent. Each of us does need other people to some degree. Participating in therapy is not a passive process. You are not “attending therapy”, or “getting therapy”.  Therapists are not administering something to you. Therapy is an active, collaborative process of figuring out life. Therapists do have some specialized knowledge about mental health, but we act as guides, not fixers. In fact, but of the unique aspects of therapy is that therapists act as guides, not as fixers.

2. If my friends and family can’t help me, how will someone I don’t even know help me?

Friends and family play extremely vital roles in our lives, and there is no substitute for those types of relationships. Often the people in our life have a vested interest in what we choose to do or in what direction we move. The role of a therapist is very different. When you go to therapy, the first task is for the therapist to be able to understand your hopes and goals, because your agenda is our agenda. Sometimes family and friends have the tendency to try to make things better for you. Therapists are trained to help you find the tools to make things better for yourself.

3. It’s not that bad. I’m not crazy. Therapy is a last resort for me.

People participate in therapy for a wide variety of reasons.

Sometimes things in their lives are pretty bad when they initiate therapy.

Sometimes they start treatment because they aren’t feeling fulfilled, or because something in life feels “off”. They want to not simply get through each day, but instead want to thrive. Sometimes students come to therapy because they are aware that academic stress is unavoidable and they want to learn strategies to manage it before it starts to create problems. At UNC Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), we work with people throughout the whole spectrum, between preventing problems before they start and treating issues before they begin.

Mental Health is similar to physical health in that it is often a quicker, easier process if you take a proactive approach. I often hear from students who have recurrent depression that the first episode was the worst, in part because they didn’t know to take action until things felt completely unmanageable.

Stigma is real. Often times we are socialized to have some negative feelings towards individuals with mental health disorders and towards seeking mental health treatment. Where have you heard some of those messages? What do you believe? How might you overcome the stigma associated with seeking services?

4. Therapy is too _____________________ (Expensive, Time Consuming)

There is no arguing with that. Participating in therapy definitely takes time (typically 45-60 minutes weekly). It also may require a financial investment. Although CAPS brief therapy services are free, there are times when students may start off with or transition to a community provider, where there will likely be a copay.

Often when I meet with students, their symptoms are impacting their ability to be as successful as they could be academically. Their friendships or relationships with loved ones may be impacted. Anxiety, for example, could make it extremely difficult for a person to concentrate and learn new material, and to seek frequent reassurance from friends, or to avoid social situations altogether.  Also, some of the symptoms they are experiencing are painful. They are in real distress. Can you relate to this? How are the issues you are having impacting your quality of life?

If one part of the equation is the cost/time/effort, please remember to include the other side of the equation- the impact the symptoms are having on your well-being.

In Conclusion

Therapy is not for everyone. But therapy is helpful for some people, and it just may be that it could be helpful to you. But don’t take my word for it! See if therapy can help you. The best way to get something out of therapy:

  • Come in with some goals in mind.
  • Ask your therapist questions.
  • If you don’t feel as if the first person you see is a good fit, work with someone else.
  • Monitor your symptoms and your progress toward your goals, and work with your therapist to get the most out of your time together.
  • Be open with your therapist about any concerns you have about the therapy process.

If you would like to initiate therapy or simply talk with a clinician more about your options for mental health services, please walk in to CAPS between the hours of 9*-12 and 1-4 M-F (8-5 if you have urgent concerns). *Friday morning initial appointments begin at 9:30 a.m. 


Originally posted August 6, 2013. Revised and updated 2016. 

Courage Group accepting members

Surviving and overcoming sexual assault can be a difficult journey that may take some time. Healing likely will not happen overnight. Remember that you do not have to do this alone.

Counseling and Psychological Services offers first time visits without an appointment for any eligible UNC student, post-doc or spouse.

CAPS also offers Courage to Heal, a group open to women seeking support from others as they journey through recovery from sexual trauma. This is a private and confidential group that can help survivors cope with anxiety, sadness, anger and guilt. The group offers the opportunity for participants to share their experience if desired and recognize that they are not alone. Survivors can begin to understand the current impact of their experience and begin to process feelings and beliefs associated with the trauma.

There is power in connecting with other survivors. It helps to talk about it. You are not alone!

Survivors often have questions about what this group will be like. Read on for more information.


What is the structure of the group?

There is not a pre-planned structure. During the first group, members will make important group agreements that help to create a safe and therapeutic environment. From that point on, group members will bring up topics that are important for them. Examples of topics that tend to come up are how to manage uncomfortable emotions, how trauma responses can create difficulties for survivors in academic and personal situations, what it was like (or what it might be like ) to disclose one’s status as a survivor to friends or family, and how to develop trust in relationships.

What are the other group members going to be like?

The Courage group is open to undergraduate and graduate students as well as post-docs. There will be a minimum of 4 group members and a maximum of 8 or 9. Group members will be experiencing their history of trauma as an important concern in their life and will have expressed a desire to talk about their recovery with other survivors.  Group members may have experienced sexual abuse as a child, a recent sexual assault, or both. It is important to know that the facilitators will create an atmosphere where everyone’s truth is respected, and where group members do not compare their experiences with each other in a way that minimizes others’ (or their own) experiences. We firmly believe that there is no one “right way” to heal from a trauma, but that we can support each other along the way.

What if I don’t like it, or discover that it isn’t the right time for me to be in this group?

We don’t ask that you make a commitment to participate in group for the entire semester. We are aware that the first few groups are often the most difficult, so we ask that you make a commitment to yourself to continue coming past that point. We are also very open to input from group members and want to make it a positive and helpful experience for all members. However, if you decide at any point that group is not a good fit, we will see if there are other services or supports we can connect you with. We only ask that you keep communication open with other group members. It has been our experience that the survivors in this group develop a connection with each other, and that they would want to hear about your decision to leave.

Is participating in group going to make things worse by bringing up difficult memories?

The first few group sessions may be particularly difficult, and there will be hard days. We openly discuss this in the group, and talk about ways to support ourselves after group and during the week. Also, since this is not a structured group, you can pace yourself so that you don’t experience a flooding of emotions. (But of course, we would encourage you to “lean in” and participate in group as uch as you are able, in whatever way you are able).

Does participating in group really help?

We have received consistent positive feedback from group members about their experiences in the Courage group. They have primarily  pointed to the connection piece as the most important part of the group (hearing someone else who has gone through a similar experience describing similar reactions, feeling supported, seeing their own resilience mirrored in others).  However, like we outlined above, this group may not be a good fit for everyone, and we’re happy to help survivors connect with other resources.

This sounds great. How do I sign up?

Go to the CAPS website and indicate interest:


The groups coordinator or the group facilitators may contact you. We will schedule a screening appointment with you to make sure group is a good fit. You will not be asked to share details of your trauma during the screening appointment (nor in the group!). If you are not sure you want to participate but want more information, we are happy to meet with you.