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Encouraging Individuals to Enter Treatment

By Judith S. Beck, PhD
President, Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Potential clients may be reluctant to enter treatment for a variety of reasons. As a clinician, it’s helpful to understand their automatic thoughts and the emotion they feel as a result. This information is helpful as you begin conceptualizing potential clients.

If they’re anxious, they may think:

What if therapy doesn’t help?

What if my therapist makes me do things I don’t want to do?

What if I have to reveal things I don’t want to talk about?

What if my therapist is critical, condescending, incompetent, hurtful?

What if get so upset I won’t be able to stand it?

If they’re hopeless, they may think:

Therapy can’t help.

I can’t change.

No matter what I do, my life will stay bad.

If they’re irritated or angry, they may think:

I don’t want to go.

I’m not the problem.

Sometimes their cognitions reflect a special negative meaning:

If I come to therapy, it will show I’m crazy.

If I listen to the therapist, it will mean he/she is in control and I’m weak.

If I engage in treatment, I’ll have to take responsibility for my problems.

Underlying their cognitions are usually negative beliefs about themselves.

I’m helpless/incompetent (and therefore I’ll just fail).

I’m vulnerable (and my therapist will harm me).

I’m bad (which is something my therapist will find out).

I’m worthless (and don’t deserve to feel better).

Sometimes offering a free or low-cost mini-consultation by phone or in person can encourage the individual to give therapy a try.  You can find other ways in our “If You Are Undecided About Therapy….” blog.