February 26, 2022

I’m avoidant, and I want to work on that. Can therapy help me?

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If you describe yourself as avoidant, that can mean a number of things. Is there a particular person, task, or obligation you’ve been avoiding? Or are you avoidant of certain kinds of relationships, perhaps those that invite closeness and emotional intimacy? Maybe you’re avoidant toward the parts of yourself or aspects of reality you’d rather not face. Is the avoidance you’re experiencing something new and uncharacteristic, or is avoidance built into your personality?

People often seek therapy when they’ve reached an impasse and feel stuck, or when they recognize that certain aspects of how they operate in life aren’t serving them well. Whether your avoidant tendencies are new or longstanding, therapy can certainly help.

How can therapy help?

If you’ve sought therapy to work on avoidant tendencies, you’re already making progress. Simply by making the choice to seek support, you’re ready to do things differently. You’re ready to tackle, head-on, the parts of your life you’ve been avoiding, and that shows motivation and commitment.

How your therapist helps you will depend on a number of factors including the length of time you’ve been avoidant, whether it’s situation or personality-driven, and what obstacles stand in your way. Therapy will help you to develop a stronger understanding of your avoidant behaviors. Some people might not know why they’re avoiding something, and therapy will help you unpack and dig into those underlying reasons. Once you have a firm grasp of what drives your avoidance, it’s much easier to change it.

Sometimes we avoid people or situations because of the stress they produce — or anger, or frustration, or hurt. Therapy will help you identify and work through those emotions so that you feel more prepared to face what you’ve been avoiding. When avoidance is rooted in trauma or past hurts, therapy is beneficial in that you have an opportunity to process and resolve deep wounds. The therapeutic relationship provides a wonderful opportunity, as well. If you’re avoidant of closeness and intimacy, then those patterns will likely surface with your therapist. Your therapist will recognize that and help you work on those feelings in real-time.

Changing well-established patterns takes time and effort, and it’s easy to feel discouraged if we don’t see immediate results. When you’re working on avoidant patterns, anticipate that your initial response may be to keep avoiding. That doesn’t mean it’s time to give up. When you’re in therapy and problematic patterns persist, you have a unique opportunity to examine what is coming up for you. Yes, therapy can help, and if you’re willing to commit the time, you’ll reap the rewards.