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Page Contents: Is it normal to resent the expense of psychotherapy?                    


I have been seeing a psychotherapist for about 3 years at great expense, as I am not covered by any insurance. I have always found it very difficult to pay but always pay eventually. I find it worthwhile to continue but I am unhappy about the expense, especially as I have to decide whether to spend money on psychotherapy or live without a flatmate (I really want to live alone but cannot afford to). My friends have told me that I am wasting my money. This morning my therapist asked me to think about why I am always late in payments, and I feel she is suggesting I am not committed to the psychotherapy. She also indicated she let it slide more than she would normally (3 months late) and was going to think about why this happened on her part but also I was to go away and think about this. I guess I am wondering how do I decide when psychotherapy should be over, and how do I find out whether perhaps she is trying to get rid of me as a patient, and if it is normal to sometimes resent the expense of psychotherapy. (For your info, the issues that brought me into psychotherapy were extremely low self esteem which resulted in poor job skills and unemployment, which have now been mended to the extent that I am working part-time but still to find permanent work in that field. So there is every reason to believe that finances will improve in future).

In order to derive any tangible benefit from psychotherapy, it’s important to consider it to be an investment in your future. The improvements in your life will justify the expense of the psychotherapy—but if you don’t put an honest effort into the work, you will be wasting your money, and therefore you will resent the cost.

Imagine, for example, that you were a student in college and that your parents were paying all your expenses. It would be quite tempting to slack off on your studies and to spend your time having fun and partying, wouldn’t it? Now imagine that you were paying for everything yourself by working in the evenings so that you could attend classes during the day. You would most likely take your studies very seriously, wouldn’t you? Thus the closer you feel to the cost of school, the more you will value it. In fact, this points to a basic psychological principle: Things too easily obtained are too little esteemed.

And so, just as you, in the second example, would know deep in your heart that the cost of school was well worth it, because it would help you get a good job in your chosen career, so you, in your present circumstances, can understand that the cost of psychotherapy is well worth it because it can help you improve your life.

Of course, this does place a heavy burden on you—and I don’t mean just a financial burden. You have to work at your psychotherapy so that it leads to real behavioral changes. Psychological insight alone isn’t sufficient; the whole purpose for all that insight is to use it to change your behavior.

Yes, it’s true that in the initial stages of psychotherapy you will be exploring your thoughts, and feelings, and dreams, and memories of your past, and during that time not many concrete changes will occur in your life. But as the awareness of your mental process grows, you will often be faced with some very significant—and often painful—encounters that will call you into new behavior. You will find that old psychological defenses just don’t work any more in any productive sense.

Now, from what you say, you seem to have done some good work so far. But that’s not enough, and that’s why your psychotherapist is telling you that you may not be committed to the work. If you’re missing payments, that suggests that you unconsciously resent paying, and there can be only one reason for that resentment: fear. Fear of moving forward, fear of facing and purifying yourself of all the ugliness deep in your psyche that has caused you to doubt yourself all these years, and fear of encountering others with honesty and directness. When you want to change as much as you want to breathe, you will change. And you will feel quite comfortable paying for it all.

When you have faced all these fears and have understood the basic concept of honest interactions with others, then the psychotherapy can be terminated.


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Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
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