I wanted to share this great article (written by Arlin Cuncic, MA) on starting therapy when you have social anxiety. Social anxiety goes beyond mere “shyness”. It is a crippling fear of social situations. The individual experiences endless worries about being rejected, embarrassed or receiving negative evaluation from others. Social anxiety affects approximately 7% of the population. Unfortunately, the actual act of being in counselling is a barrier because it involves meeting a new person (the therapist) and opening up about vulnerabilities. So how can someone with social anxiety get started? Cuncic offers six great tips. Take a minute to read it at Very Well Mind.
As humans, we have an innate urge to manage anxiety through avoidance (i.e. scared of flying? Avoid being on a plane.) By attending counselling, you are exposing yourself to a situation that intimidates you. However, each time you keep showing up for therapy, it helps build up your level of tolerance and confidence in handling this social situation. Like any skill, the first time you try something new is challenging and requires conscious effort. There comes a point; however, when you have practiced a skill so frequently that you no longer have to think about it. Think about the first time you reversed your car into a parking lot. Does reversing still take the same level of attention and effort today as it did on day one?
I encourage following the 3-session rule. For anyone new to attending counselling, give it three sessions. The first session will likely be exhausting because your anxiety is incredibly high in starting a new relationship and treatment plan. The second session can be unnerving because we recall how much anxiety we experienced during the first appointment. By the third appointment, many of those fears have eased (at least slightly) because the therapist is no longer a new person, and you have survived two appointments already. Those initial anticipations about therapy (i.e. Will she judge me? Will she push me when I’m not ready? Will she really understand?) have been addressed and clarified.
Please feel free to share or reach out if you have any questions.