Maybe this is a term you’re familiar with when it comes to weddings. It’s what you see on movies when the bride (or groom) backs out at the last minute and runs away to a different life.
“Cold feet” is the term loosely used to describe last minute thoughts of “oh, I shouldn’t do this!” associated with feelings of anxiety.
What we know about cold feet is that it’s often the solution to avoiding anxiety.
Unfortunately, cold feet don’t just happen in rom-coms and weddings. It happens in therapy too! Most often prior to the initial session.
Maybe this is something you can relate to: you have taken the initiative to make the call, schedule your appointment, ignite a sense of hope that things will get better, and then… last minute cancel the session or just not show up.
Initially a sense of relief might overcome you.
“Whew!” you think… “I don’t really need therapy anyway.” “Sure it might have been helpful, but I’m sure I’ll be fine without it.”
In the following minutes to days you’ll likely come up with many of these different thoughts to justify not attending the appointment.
That still, small voice inside of you knows that you would benefit from therapy, and you’re wondering if you made a mistake to cancel.
You’re also confused about why you cancelled.
Here are three possible reasons:
ONE: The crisis passed
When you first thought about starting therapy, there was an event or situation in your life that urgently felt like it needed resolution. You did the best you could to fix the problem, only to feel defeated, frustrated and stuck when it only got worse.
This is when making that initial appointment for therapy came in. Yet, between that phone call and the appointment time, the crises passed. Although things are far from perfect, your teenage daughter has stopped screaming in your face and staying out all night, and you figure you must have just been overreacting to the situation in the first place.
You make an appointment to start therapy and feel strongly that you’ve made the right decision. Then in conversation with your friend over coffee, she nonchalantly comments about another friend who attends therapy. Her comments rattle you, and you second-guess yourself. “What if others start talking about me like I’m a nut case? What if so-and-so finds out and refuses to let our sons have play dates any longer? What if I really don’t need support, I’m just having a hard time right now but I’ll get through this? What if I’m just making it all up in my head?”
The fears of judgment, along with judging yourself, take over and you decide to skip the session and pretend like it never needed to happen in the first place.
Even after speaking with your potential therapist, learning about the fee and insurance policy, discussing the financial piece with your significant other or support system and determining you can afford to do this; you allow the cost to prevent you from even starting.
There’s no denying that feelings and money go hand-in-hand. Many (emotional) reasons could be underlying your decision to back out of therapy because of money. However, no matter what the feelings tied to finances are, know that you are worth more than any dollar amount.
Similar to the bride at the alter who runs away from her planned nuptials, it’s a good idea to understand the truth about the fears associated with starting therapy.
Let’s look back at the three possible causes of bailing on your first therapy session above.
ONE: Crises averted, perhaps, but not solved.
Like most new paths in life, a certain amount of trust is needed to embark on the therapy journey.
Why? Because it involves change, and change can be difficult and frightening. Change also takes time and effort.
It’s important to trust that initial intuitive thought or feeling that had you reach out for support in the first place. That’s your green light to knowing that change is necessary. It’s equally important to understand that changing in therapy is different than doing it on your own. While you might not have an immediate fire to put out, trust the instinct that let you know deep, foundational change supported by a professional other is needed.
TWO: Therapy is healthy.
Being the social creatures that we are, we need social connections and support. While certain stigmas do and will likely persist regarding psychotherapy and mental health, you need neither a diagnosis nor an excuse to be in therapy.
What is necessary is a letting go of judgment around it, and in it’s place an acceptance that every single one of us needs support. This can look like many different things at different times, and therapy is often a very wise place to start.
THREE: Therapy is a priceless investment.
It does cost money. There are reasons for this. Like anything in our world, at it’s very basic level it’s an exchange for goods and services.
But it’s also much more than that. It’s a way of honoring yourself, your place in life and saying “you’re worth it.” Going to therapy, even just to try it out is saying, “I love you” to the core of ourselves.
This is far more powerful than money itself.
If you’ve found yourself in any of the above situations, maybe even getting cold feet at the thought of calling to inquire about starting therapy, at the very least remember the cliché “it doesn’t hurt to try.”
After all, it’s not a marriage…
*Written by Nikki Eby, M.A., MFT, ATR-BC, therapist on staff at One Heart Counseling Center**