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5 Common Counselling Barriers

Counselling has undeniable benefits for individuals and loved ones dealing with substance use disorder. Participating in individual or group counselling sessions can pave the way for preventing relapse as well as helping you achieve long-lasting sobriety by improving your mental health. Counselling can also assist in mending relationships, helping you unlearn unhealthy coping strategies, and teach you how to replace them with mindful habits.

Nevertheless, there are still many people who hold back from seeking professional help due to many factors. In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about the primary counselling barriers that make most people hesitate about going to a therapist and how this significantly affects addiction treatment.

1. Social and Internalized Stigma 

As if the stigma surrounding addiction isn’t enough, the social stigma associated with mental health treatment is one of the many barriers to counselling. Even to this day, there are still regions and cultures that consider both topics taboo.

For instance, some people with mental illnesses keep their conditions secret out of fear of their peer’s harsh judgment and prejudice, not wanting to be stereotyped as weak or crazy, outcast in their inner circles, or discriminated against for employment opportunities.

Likewise, substance use disorder is often perceived as a moral failure or character flaw that one can overcome with strong willpower. Individuals with addiction are often blamed for their condition. It becomes a counselling barrier because it leads people to think that going to addiction counselling confirms their weakness and inadequacy, being unable to deal with their personal problems independently.

Social stigma neglects the fact that addiction is a chronic and complex brain disease with behavioural components that require holistic treatment.

On the other hand, there is also the case of internalized stigma. The person with mental illness or addiction has emotionally and cognitively absorbed the negative messages and perception and has now accepted and believed them as truths about themselves, which is evident in individuals who are grappling with the shame and guilt of relapse.

Image of a woman behind glass

2. The Thought of Opening Pandora’s Box of Emotions 

The fear of facing your own emotional issues is among the most significant of counselling barriers. They are scared that therapy would open up a floodgate of painful thoughts and memories that they worked so hard to suppress for the longest time. This is especially true for individuals who have experienced trauma or abuse.

Counselling is an essential part of both private and public rehab programs. It delves deeper into the root cause of addiction, which could be traced back to childhood trauma, exposure to alcohol and illicit drugs by a substance-abusing family member, or a concurrent mental health disorder.

Patients who feel this way about counselling should feel reassured that while it may be challenging to recall painful memories and unpack suppressed emotions, they’re in the hands of capable professionals who will guide them through the entire process and lead them to emotional recovery.

3. Denying and Downplaying the Problem 

In some cases, a person refuses to believe that they have an addiction that requires urgent medical and psychological help. They may dismiss themselves as casual drinkers or users of illicit drugs, thinking that they can stop whenever they want. They come up with every possible excuse, saying, “It’s not that bad,” “I don’t have the time,” or, “I don’t have the money to pay for therapy.” It does not help if loved ones are acting as enablers by encouraging these notions, too.

Holding an addiction intervention for a friend or family member can help them acknowledge the reality about their condition, look beyond their personal counselling barriers, and finally start necessary treatment.

Male individual during an intervention

4. The Uncertainties of Therapy 

Going to therapy seems daunting for first-time patients who are clueless about how treatment sessions are conducted. It’s this lack of awareness that bring about common counselling barriers, such as:

  • Anticipated utility, where you have doubts if therapy will even work for you; and
  • Anticipated risk, where you’re scared of revealing your most personal and private thoughts, experiences, and behaviours with a mental health professional and then be misunderstood or wrongfully judged in the end.

5. Demographics 

Here are some examples of how different demographics contribute to counselling barriers.


Younger people have a more positive outlook when it comes to therapy. An online survey by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychology Association (APA) discovered that Gen Z (37%) are significantly more likely to report mental health concerns and reveal that they need to go to therapy, compared with Millenials (35%), Gen X’ers (26%), Baby Boomers (22%), and older adults, also known as the Silent Generation (15%).

Sexual and Gender Orientation or Identity 

Studies show that women are 10% more likely   to seek mental health services months earlier than men. According to an article by Time, while this could mean that women are more comfortable talking about how they feel, it could also indicate that their symptoms are much worse, which is why they seek help sooner.

On a different note, queer folks have a high risk for mental health and substance use disorder, but many may hesitate to go to counselling in the absence of an LGBTQ+ therapist, which is a huge counselling barrier given the lack of available mental health professionals who identify or specialize in this aspect.


Middle- to low-income families are most vulnerable to mental health concerns and developing substance use disorder due to constant anxiety and insecurity about food, shelter, or employment, or exposure to violence and crimes. In the U.S., at least 8.7% of low-income families living below the poverty line suffer from severe psychological stress.

Unfortunately, they are also the ones who have the least amount of access to mental health care due to a lack of health insurance or the availability of affordable yet high-quality treatment providers. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that in low- and middle-income countries, more than 75% of people with mental, neurological, and substance use disorders receive no treatment for their condition at all.

Break Free From These Counselling Barriers 

Freedom From Addiction uses different types of psychotherapy and counselling to guide our patients to healing and recovery. Our individualized treatment programs include:

If you or a loved one is holding back from getting treatment due to any of these counselling barriers, Freedom From Addiction can help you. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us. A member of our team will get back to you shortly.

Contact us today!


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